Haider Al lawati –
The Omani society reacted positively to the outcome of the 11th Middle East Healthcare Insurance Conference, recently held in collaboration with the Capital Market Authority in Muscat, and saw participation from a group of healthcare operators, officials, insurers, corporates and other stakeholders.
This gathering succeeded in highlighting the issue of health insurance and how to benefit from it, along with gaining access to regional and international experiences in this field and promote awareness and knowledge of the rights of insurance policyholders to provide high-quality health services.
Today, spending on healthcare in the Sultanate accounts for nearly 3 per cent of the national income. This is likely to increase if health insurance is applied to everyone.
There are nine per cent of Omani private sector employees with health insurance at present, and there is consensus on emphasising the importance of health insurance at the government and personal levels.
Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al Saidi, Minister of Health, noted in his speech that the health insurance sector is a form of health funding, citing a myriad of relevant studies conducted in collaboration with Korea’s National Health Insurance Corporation, which have proved the Sultanate’s need for a systematic and progressive health insurance.
This type of insurance would raise the quality and efficiency of public and private healthcare, spelling an opportunity for private healthcare to compete with its government counterpart, which can be achieved through funding of private health sector through one of its main pillars: health insurance.
He also noted global healthcare costs are on the rise due to modern technology intervention, annually and regularly, whether with machines, equipment, medicines or new technologies, and this sector will be unsustainable with the current funding in any country unless there are new ways of funding.
Salem bin Abdullah al Salmi, the Executive President of the Capital Market Authority, pointed out three main elements for ensuring continued delivery of adequate and efficient health services, but at lower costs.
These include providing good and capable health service providers to respond effectively to the demand rates for these services, well-structured insurance companies capable of facilitating access and utilising these services and an integrated regulatory and organisational system that ensures smooth and easy handling.
The healthcare sector in the Sultanate has witnessed many positive developments in the past four decades both in terms of providing high-quality health services and health care in hospitals and health centres or qualification and training of Omani cadres in various disciplines.
Meanwhile, the private sector is actively establishing hospitals and private health centres which also offer necessary 24-hour services.
Health insurance premiums in 2016 accounted for 26 per cent of the total subscriptions in the Sultanate, nearly paralleling car insurance premiums. These premiums are expected to increase in the upcoming years in light of the efforts exerted to apply health insurance for both citizens and expatriates, who are now about two million in population. Generally speaking, there is a need today to promote awareness and knowledge about the importance of health insurance at the socio-economic level. This can be spread throughout the community along with promoting investment in the health sector to provide the various necessary services to the public.