Geneva – Kuwait’s government must reconsider the fees it is imposing on non-Kuwaiti patients seeking medical treatment, which are 10 times higher than those imposed on citizens, said Euro-Med Monitor in a statement.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Health issued a decision last month imposing additional fees on medicine dispensed to expatriates in Kuwait, with an increase of about 100% at hospitals and 250% at dispensaries. The decision imposes a fee of five Kuwaiti dinars (approximately 15 euros) on medicine dispensed by a hospital pharmacy or the pharmacy of a primary healthcare centre (or dispensary), and a fee of 10 Kuwaiti dinars (approx. 30 euros) on medicine dispensed by outpatient pharmacies. These fees will be in addition to the health consultation fee, which is two Kuwaiti dinars (about six euros) for a check-up at a primary healthcare centre, and 10 Kuwaiti dinars for visits to a hospital emergency department or outpatient clinic.

   Migrant workers are the most affected by the introduction of additional fees in Kuwait, since many of them earn less than the minimum wage of 320 Kuwaiti dinars   

Any decision affecting fundamental rights, particularly the human right to health, must consider access to health facilities and obtaining medical services and should not in any way impede on individuals’ ability to exercise this right, especially if they belong to one of the most vulnerable groups in a society. Migrant workers are the most affected by the introduction of additional fees in Kuwait, since many of them earn less than the minimum wage of 320 Kuwaiti dinars (about 953 euros). The new decision will add to their financial burden, which they may not be able to bear.

The decision is an extension of previous government decisions aimed at raising healthcare fees for expatriates in Kuwait, the first of which was Ministry of Health Resolution No. 294/2017, which imposed fees on health services provided to non-Kuwaitis. According to the law, the employer—as opposed to the worker—is responsible for paying the annual health insurance fees, as Article 2 of Law No. 1 of 1999 on Alien Health Insurance and the Imposition of Fees Against Medical Services states: “No residence permit shall be granted unless a health insurance policy or a medical security contract is obtained. This provision shall be valid for renewal of residence. The employer shall be held liable to pay the health insurance or medical security premiums; and any agreement contrary to this stipulation shall be deemed null and void.”

The increase in medical fees for expatriates runs counter to Kuwait’s relevant international obligations, particularly the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which stipulates, “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The Kuwaiti government must halt any measures that may impose additional burdens on migrant workers, particularly those related to healthcare; strengthen control mechanisms when employers fail to meet their obligations to provide health insurance for employees; and ensure that public policies consider migrant workers as one of the groups most affected by the consequences of the growing economic crises.