Qatar has remained immune from much of the region’s economic and political turmoil, which makes it attractive for expatriates to start a new life and career there. Unlike its size, however, Qatar’s petrochemical reserves are vast and have brought the country great financial wealth and prosperity.
This short guide offers a practical summary of the healthcare and insurance landscape in Qatar for expats residing or traveling in the country. Read on to learn more, or click the button below to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.
History of Qatar
Qatar occupies a small peninsula that extends into the Persian Gulf. The country is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the west and the United Arab Emirates to the south. The land is largely barren and the primary trade before the discovery of crude oil was fishing and pearl diving. The country was originally ruled by the sheiks of Bahrain, until the Portuguese came, followed by the takeover of the British. The British themselves installed the head of a leading Qatari family, Muhamidibn Thani as the region’s ruler. The family originated from the Al-Masjid tribe of Ushaiger in the province of Al-Washun of Nejd around the middle of the 18th century. Qatar has been ruled as an absolute monarchy since, before changing to a constitutional monarchy in 2005. In 1971, Qatar became independent from British rule, which marked the beginning of a prosperous future for the country. A future that has revolved around the country’s main source of income - exportation of oil and gas.
Wealthy and prosperous nation.
Qatar is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Oil was discovered in the 1940s and the country began increasing its wealth in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2015, around 85 percent of Qatar’s income came from oil and natural gas reserves.
Rich demographic in Qatar
According to the United Nations, as of August 2019, the population in Qatar was 2,839,386. Qataris are considered a minority in their own country with only 15 percent of them accounting for Qatar’s total population. The remaining 85% is made up of a workforce of over a hundred different nationalities. Indians constitute the largest group of expats in Qatar, followed by other Arab nationalities, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, and numerous other nationalities that contribute to Qatar's global growth.
Overview of the Qatar Healthcare System
Qatar, one of the smallest and wealthiest countries in the world, was ranked 5th in 2019 for having the best healthcare system globally, according to the London-based think tank, Legatum Institute. The healthcare system is available to all both Qataris and expatriates through public and private healthcare services.
Public Healthcare in Qatar
Compared to public healthcare systems in other parts of the world, Qatar has benefited from a huge state investment over the last 20 years, by the Qatari government. The county’s public hospitals and clinics are well equipped with state-of-the-art technology and facilities. The medical staff employed are highly efficient and specialized. The public health service provides a free or highly subsidized healthcare for the population. All native Qataris and residents receive free treatment. However, expatriates generally pay a small out-of-pocket fee or are covered by a health card.
What is the health card for in Qatar?
The health card gives access to public hospitals and clinics run by the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). The HMC clinics and hospitals offer free vaccinations for children, smoking cessation programs, diet clinics, support for families who have children with special needs, treatments, care, and much more — the list is extensive.
The universal benefits of having a health card in Qatar
- HMC clinics and hospitals offer advanced medical equipment and highly qualified staff to those that present the health card.
- All citizens and residents have the right to equal access to health services regardless of residency or nationality, when in possession of the health card.
- Health cardholders may receive prescriptions from government-run pharmacies at subsidized rates.
- Consultations or non-emergency treatments may cost somewhat extra but is reasonably subsidized for those who have a valid health card.
How to apply for a health card in Qatar?
Applying for a health card is reasonably straight-forward for expatriates. Simply, the most recommended channel is to obtain a health card through any HMC clinic or primary health care center. The application procedure is reasonably simple. Expats will need to complete a form and provide the following supplementary documents:
- Residence visa
- Passport-sized photos
It is recommended to check the official guidelines and fee charges for the health card to ensure the application process occurs smoothly.
Private Healthcare in Qatar
Private healthcare in Qatar is a rapidly growing sector, and is driven by demand for quicker medical services and healthcare treatment as the population continues to grow. Private healthcare provides more treatment options, particularly for the specialized procedures as well as greater freedom in choosing who to be treated by. Although public services are highly praised for being efficient and employing excellent medical staff, private hospitals usually excel in the area of faster treatments.
Pharmacies and medicines in Qatar
Qatar has many 24-hour pharmacies operating in Doha. Expats and their loved ones can also find pharmacies that are affiliated with most major hospitals. In terms of availability, most medicines can be brought over the counter or prescribed by doctors. For expats that are on certain medications, it is best to check before moving to Qatar on how easy it is to get the medication if stock runs out. It is worth noting that certain medications that are common in the west, such as many brands of antidepressants, are banned in Qatar.
Qatar is known for being an extremely safe country and expats can expect a very relaxed lifestyle compared to other developed countries. Despite this, expats should speak to their doctor at least six weeks before traveling to Qatar to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date and to confirm their requirements for the country.
The following vaccinations are recommended before traveling to Qatar:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis)
How to find the best health insurance for expats and travelers
With extensive years of experience throughout the world, Pacific Prime can assist you with any health insurance needs in Qatar. Leveraging our close relationships with major international insurers, we offer professional advice and free plan comparisons to our clients.
No matter what your budget is, or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can match you with a policy that best fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, medical emergency transportation, inpatient services, and many more aspects. Expatriates with family members can also secure international cover for the whole family. For international students or travelers in search of international health insurance or travel insurance, Pacific Prime is the go-to insurance intermediary for the best impartial advice and guidance.
Contact us today for a free consultation!