Private sector firms in Oman are reportedly excluding chronic and common medical conditions from their health insurance plans to cut costs.
Times of Oman cited insurance agents as saying there is a drop in the number of staff health plans being renewed so far this year, while those that do renew are said to be cut down.
“We are witnessing a worrisome trend. We have found that some companies are excluding insurance coverage for chronic ailments like diabetes, and blood pressure because it needs constant medication and treatment,” Lifeline Hospitals director Dr Rohil Raghavan was quoted as saying.
“Even though we have not come across full package cut cases, we are seeing that coverage for some diseases are excluded,” he added.
A trend of lesser benefits or the introduction of deductibles is now common, while one agent said 5 per cent of existing clients had not renewed their policies this year.
“The majority of them have become cost conscious. They are asking for lesser packages when compared to previous years,” an official told the publication.
Private sector firms in Oman are not required under law to provide health insurance for their expatriate workers.
The government is currently considering mandatory insurance, but no decision has been made, Ministry of Manpower advisor Saeed bin Nasser Al Saadi told the publication.
Trade union leader Saud Salmi said it should be mandatory for companies to protect workers’ health and hoped a resolution would be drafted into the country’s new labour law.
Currently firms are required to provide employees with access to medical facilities and employ a nurse and assign a doctor to visit workers if their headcount exceeds 100.
Oman has been hit hard by the current period of low oil prices, forcing the government to introduce austerity measures including cuts to subsidies and worker benefits and increased fees and taxes.
Private sector firms have also sought to cut costs, with recent reports suggesting several are not paying departing workers their end of service benefits.
Last month, the government issued a $2.5bn sukuk to plug its budget deficit, estimated at $8.6bn this year.