The Middle East continues to garner attention as one of the next frontiers for healthcare development, and with it the development of the health insurance industry. As more and more expatriates are relocated to the region, Middle Eastern countries are looking for ways to cope with the new demands that increased foreigners have created.One such way of coping with these changes has been governments mandating compulsory health insurance for all expatriates. While some countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, have implemented this kind of plan, more are following suit with the latest being Bahrain.
Bahrain Insurance Association (BIA) chairman Younis Jamal, talked about the proposal at a recent press conference, where plans for the hosting of a Middle East and North Africa occupational insurance forum were also announced. He said that the implementation of the proposal was at an advanced stage, and recent moves by authorities have cleared the decks for the establishment of a health insurance regulator. "I expect the plan to be implemented by 2013-2014," Mr Jamal said.
General Arab Insurance Federation (Gaif) general secretary Abdul Khaliq Rouf, who was also present, said the health insurance sector is under-developed yet is expected to see exponential growth during the next few years.
Despite the need to update and implement policies, the logistics of the plan have not yet been announced but remain crucial to the success of the plan. "How the proposal is to be rolled out across the kingdom remains a very important issue not just for regional insurance community for the country as a whole," said Mr. Jamal. "Mandatory health insurance will improve the penetration rate, enable insurers to better cover healthcare costs and alleviate pressure on the public healthcare system."
He added that "Saudi Arabia has already rolled it out and the other countries of the GCC are expected to follow suit. The Bahraini government has in the past made clear its intention to make medical insurance compulsory for all expatriates from 2013."
The proposed introduction of compulsory health insurance for all expatriates would open up a BD50 million ($132.6m) market for Bahrain's insurance industry, experts have said.
Various studies and market research initiatives show that growth in the region is very promising as the Middle East recovers and grows economically. In addition to promising reports, many international health insurance companies have expanded their coverage options in the region and the area's healthcare industry continues to develop at a rapid pace.