Health insurance for all’ paves way for more holistic medical cover in Oman
A simple, affordable, and predictable health insurance cover that provides a safety net during unpredictable times has become the need of the hour. The global pandemic has made individuals realise the challenges of unforeseen medical expenses, access to quality medical amenities and escalating hospitalisation costs. Since then, the importance of comprehensive medical cover has intensified.
A quality health insurance cover provides peace of mind so that patients can focus on improving their health and wellbeing, as well as opt for the best available treatments instead of fretting about the costs attached.
According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), the Sultanate’s population stood at 4,527,446 by the end of December 2021, of whom 62 per cent were Omani citizens and 38 per cent were expatriates. While citizens have enjoyed free healthcare at state-run institutions, expatriate residents have traditionally opted for treatments at private hospitals or clinics.
However, a growing trend indicates that a large percentage of Omani citizens are also choosing to get themselves treated at private healthcare facilities due to factors such as accessibility, convenience, or referrals. When it comes to health insurance in Oman, data from Oman’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) shows that the gross domestic premium garnered by insurers inched up 3 per cent to reach OMR479.857 million last year, buoyed by a 5.6 per cent increase in gross direct premiums from the healthcare segment totalling OMR163.866 million in 2021, compared to OMR155.193 million in 2020. At the same time, the gross direct premiums of Takaful companies for health insurance increased by 16.7 per cent to OMR13.148 million in 2021 compared to OMR11.271 million in 2020.
Health Takaful represents about 8 per cent of the total health insurance of all the companies.
On a macro level, the 2022 Global Medical Trends Survey indicated that there have been considerable variations in healthcare cost increases around the world, primarily due to COVID-19 cases surging in different countries at different periods through 2020 and 2021. In 2020, it dropped to 4.8 per cent and rebounded to 8.1 per cent in 2021.
The projected healthcare benefit cost trend is expected to continue along the same trajectory in 2022 at a global average of 8.1 per cent.
Average increases across different regions in 2022 are expected to range from 14.2 per cent in Latin America to 10.6 per cent in the Middle East and Africa to 7.6 per cent in the Asia Pacific to 6.7 per cent in Europe. The average medical trend in the US is projected at 7.6 per cent in 2022 based on other Willis Towers Watson research.
Healthcare costs are expected to continue to accelerate beyond 2022. More than three-quarters of health insurers are anticipating higher or significantly higher medical trends over the next three years. About 82 per cent of insurers in the Middle East and Africa are expecting higher or significantly higher medical trends during this period.
That being said, the contribution of the insurance sector to Oman’s GDP is also expected to continue surging in the future owing to its growing population, new reforms and embracing technological advancements in the field.
Dhamani initiative to further strengthen delivery of high-quality healthcare
In a concerted bid to enhance the overall healthcare segment in the country, Oman’s government has made commendable efforts to introduce new policies and regulations that prioritise the health and well-being of its population. Dhamani, the Unified Health Insurance Policy (UHIP) introduced by the CMA, was a significant step in the right direction and a notable initiative from the country’s policymakers.
By making health insurance mandatory for all private-sector employees in the country, both Omanis and expatriates are assured of a basic medical insurance cover and its benefits. Backing this scheme, CMA also noted that it expected the Dhamani initiative to further strengthen the delivery of high-quality health care that would cascade a best-in-class health insurance ecosystem for Oman’s citizens and residents.
In fact, the first 100 stakeholders who will be involved in the delivery of Dhamani have been onboarded and registered on the platform, which will underlie the Sultanate’s mandatory health insurance programme. It symbolises the achievement of a critical milestone before the project’s planned rollout.
Impact on Oman’s Health Insurance industry
First, this ‘health insurance for all’ initiative has provided the necessary impetus for the industry’s growth in the upcoming period. The UHIP scheme has led to a high-growth insurance market with a target to cover over two million workers and employees in the private sector.
Second, the new UHIP law will help shift some of the healthcare burdens from Oman’s government while paving the way for a robust private sector insurance market and healthcare institutions. According to CMA, Oman’s health insurance sector is poised to at least double its present value with new policyholders, investors and private sector institutions entering the local market. Given these statistics, Omanis emerging as a key market for global players.
Third and most importantly, Dhamani serves as a platform that integrates the exchange of health information, claims settlements, fund transfers, requests for approvals and verification, and checking insurance cover between the parties in the insurance relationship and the regulators’ supervisors in the Sultanate.
A unified health insurance portal reflects the country’s commitment to driving enhancements in the sector. Dhamani is well aligned with Oman’s Health Vision 2050 that seeks to provide its residents with a healthy and enhanced quality of life through shaping a well-organized, equitable, efficient, and responsive health system built on societal values of equity and social justice.
Holistic wellness for the people
Enhancing the overall healthcare segment can only be achieved through making it a community endeavour – to which everyone contributes. Dhamani certainly proves the wisdom of the adage ‘health is wealth’ and underscores that people are the greatest assets for any country. One truth that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven home is that healthcare is one of the most important pillars of society.
‘Health Insurance for All’ is so much more than a slogan and helps to foster a cohesive and inclusive community supported by a strong healthcare system and immense confidence to propel the economy forward.
In the current uncertain environment, the protection offered by a health insurance cover extends to the employees as well as employers. Mandatory health insurance gives employees the confidence that they will be taken care of, thereby boosting productivity, and morale and also helping to instil a positive workplace culture. Companies can now tailor health insurance packages that best support their employees – according to a viable premium - while addressing their fundamental medical needs.
Oman promotes the utmost transparency when it comes to its health insurance segment –and makes sure the market remains competitive as a result. Insurers, therefore, work closely with corporate entities to routinely come up with innovative schemes and comprehensive packages that are affordable, convenient, and hassle-free. At Cigna, we recently introduced Cigna Choice , a comprehensive, local and affordable health insurance plan tailored for the Oman market that offers the best of Cigna’s healthcare expertise to employees based in Oman.
As a leading global health insurance provider in the region, Cigna has observed a clear shift in awareness of the importance of health during the pandemic – with the crisis compelling individuals and organisations to take a hard look at their existing health insurance policy and demand a more comprehensive medical cover that will translate into value-added outcomes. More than ever, today there is a need for simple, predictable and affordable healthcare solutions at the community level, and Oman is taking the right steps to cater to this need.