Oman Observer

Mandatory health cover first for intl firms in Oman

MUSCAT, MARCH 11 –
International companies operating in the Sultanate are tipped to be the first in line to provide health insurance coverage for their expatriate employees once it becomes mandatory for the private sector, a top official of the Capital Market Authority (CMA) said.
Abdullah bin Salim al Salmi (pictured), Executive President, said mandatory health insurance for the private sector will be introduced in stages, starting with large organisations.
“We will roll it out gradually, starting with international companies, followed by Grade 1 companies and so on. We hope to progress with the implementation of mandatory health insurance in this manner,” the Executive President stated.
Last September, the CMA announced that the Council of Ministers had green-lighted its proposal for the introduction of compulsory coverage for the expatriate staff of private companies. In the wake of that landmark announcement, the Authority set up a dedicated department to draft the requisite regulatory framework and guidelines governing the introduction of compulsory health insurance for expats.
In the meanwhile, the various constituent elements of private healthcare services, encompassing healthcare providers, dental clinics, opticians, insurers, diagnostic labs and pharmacies, have been making representations to the CMA setting out their minimum expectations and concerns for the consideration of the Authority during the drafting of the regulatory framework.
In comments to the Observer, Al Salmi said the process of drafting the regulations was challenging and time-consuming, given the complex nature of health insurance coverage. “Things are progressing quite well, but as we all know, health insurance is a complex and sensitive subject that has implications for everyone’s health. On the other hand, there are so many stakeholders and parties who have to be brought up to speed and to work collaboratively in delivering on this important goal.”
At the same time, the Authority is working with Muscat-based actuaries to ensure that the pricing of the policies is “right”, the Executive President stressed. “We hope by the end of this year, we have a clearer picture on the kind of compulsory healthcare coverage that will be mandated,” he said.
Domestic healthcare insurance services have been growing at a steady clip. Healthcare insurance accounted for 26 per cent of the total premiums collected against insurance policies underwritten in 2016. This is consistent with a roughly 34 per cent average growth witnessed by this segment of the industry over the past four years.
Significantly, around 10 per cent of expatriate workers in the Sultanate were covered by healthcare insurance in 2016. Coverage reached nine per cent for Omanis — figures that attest to the growing importance of healthcare insurance in the country.