Dr Rao Suddapalli – a medical advisor and an intellectual property rights attorney – examines the government’s decision to provide mandatory health insurance for expat workers.
There’s a saying “better late than never”, and that applies here. The mandatory health insurance scheme that will soon come into being in Oman is much needed, and will be of great help to those expats and Omanis looking to avail themselves of medical services in private hospitals in Oman.
Most developed or developing countries provide health care for their residents. Even former US president Barack Obama’s health care plan – which arguably did fail – was an effort to provide everyone with medical facilities.
The idea is to get help to those who need it. However, every silver lining has a cloud!
With most health facilities now open to an individual under the insurance, they could end up misusing it by accessing services and medicines from multiple sources – all in the name for peace of mind. This can result in overdosing cases, and even in the over-purchasing of prescription drugs.
Moreover, with all residents of the country relying on insurance, a lot of pharmaceutical companies – both local and international – can misuse the trust of patients by pushing for medicines and equipment to these insurance agencies.
These agencies, based on their contacts with doctors and medical personnel, can then push these requests on to the patients.
That said, the greatest pressure from this law will be on small-scale companies, and sponsors of housemaids. To fulfil the demands of government, they could now cut the salaries of their workers. And when a person is only making RO100, a cut of RO40 will be significant.
Moreover, some of these workers – especially maids – are at the mercy of their sponsor to take them to the hospital. So, a mere health insurance scheme alone will not promise them a better life in Oman. For that, we’ll all have to act more responsibly ourselves. The government is doing their part – let’s do ours.