Expats will be glad to learn that Kuwait offers high-quality healthcare. All Kuwaitis are entitled to free medical treatment at government facilities, while expats are expected to pay an annual fee to access public healthcare. Additional services, such as X-rays or specialised tests, are usually not free, and patients are expected to pay for these out of their own pockets.
With that said, healthcare for expats living in Kuwait has been a contentious issue in recent times, with the government looking at implementing policies of segregation for local and foreign patients, as well as local and foreign medical staff. This has come after locals had to wait for treatment at public facilities due to the large number of expats seeking medical assistance.
Public healthcare in Kuwait
Kuwait is divided into six administrative and health regions, with each region having a general public hospital, which provides full outpatient services and 24-hour emergency services. In addition, there is a wide range of specialist public hospitals in Kuwait.
Mental health facilities have also been improved greatly recently, advocating for both community- and home-based support systems as well as incorporating school programmes focusing on mental well-being in students.
Expats have access to public facilities but should expect long queues and waiting times. In an attempt to ease congestion at public facilities, the Kuwaiti government has started trials to bar expats from accessing public healthcare during certain times of the day. In some outpatient facilities, Kuwaiti nationals will be given priority access to medical care at public hospitals in the morning, while expats can only access these facilities in the afternoon, except in the case of an emergency. It remains to be seen whether this policy will be extended to all public health facilities.
To access public healthcare in Kuwait, expats need to register at their nearest clinic or hospital for a medical card using their Civil ID.
Private healthcare in Kuwait
Private hospitals in Kuwait offer better services and a shorter waiting time than public ones, and expats are not subject to restrictions at these facilities. Although private healthcare fees are regulated by the government, they can still be expensive, seeing as patients are charged registration fees, on top of general medical fees.
The restrictions being discussed for public hospitals are unlikely to affect foreigners who have comprehensive health coverage and attend private hospitals.
Health insurance in Kuwait
Health insurance is mandatory for expats in Kuwait. While access to the state system is granted through the state insurance scheme – which expats are required to pay into every year – this scheme does not cover treatment at private facilities. Expats living and working in Kuwait are advised to have comprehensive health insurance for the duration of their stay in the country. Kuwaiti employers may, in some cases, offer a benefits package that includes medical insurance.
Medicines and pharmacies in Kuwait
Pharmacies are widely available in Kuwait, with at least one 24/7 pharmacy available in each major administrative region. Private hospitals and clinics usually also offer pharmacy services. The prices of medicines are strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health, so expats should find that the prices of basic medications are fairly standard.
Some basic non-prescription medications, such as cough syrup, are available in supermarkets. On the other hand, many medicines that are freely available in the US or Western Europe may require a prescription in Kuwait.
Health hazards in Kuwait
The extreme weather, in particular the heat and humidity, accompanied by dust from the desert and continuous construction, are health hazards in Kuwait. Expats with respiratory conditions may struggle in this environment, and heatstroke and exhaustion are common among foreign workers.
Emergency services in Kuwait
Ambulances are usually only used in Kuwait in extreme emergencies. Many expats use their own vehicle or a taxi to get to a hospital, granted they are physically able to.
In the case of an emergency, expats can dial 112. Luckily, most emergency dispatch operators can speak English.
►For an overview of the Kuwaiti education system, see Education and Schools in Kuwait
"Public healthcare in Kuwait, which is provided by the government, is a nightmare. Upon arrival, I had to go through a government health screening to get my visa, as does everyone. This is much dreaded, and many expats are willing to offer up their horror stories. It is free, though, to visit a government clinic once you have your civil ID. I would recommend private healthcare in Kuwait." Read more in our interview with Allyson.
"Private healthcare is very good and there are numerous different clinics and hospitals to choose from... Both my children were born in Kuwait and I would highly recommend the standard of care I received. Appointments are more regular and the aftercare after having both my children at the hospital was fantastic..." For more on an expat's experience with Kuwait's medical system, read our interview with Gemma.
Are you an expat living in Kuwait?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kuwait. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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