By SOMAN BABY
PLANS to introduce compulsory medical insurance for expatriates were dealt a body-blow yesterday, with the revelation that legislation to make it possible had fallen between the cracks.
There is no such legislation on the table for either parliament or the Shura Council to vote on, since the original proposal had lapsed, said MP Dr Aziz Abul.
He said even if it was reactivated immediately, it would take months to work its way through the legislative system.
Neither the government, parliament nor the Shura Council has reactivated it since being first presented as a proposal to parliament in June 2006, said Dr Abul.
“It is now lying idle somewhere between the three entities,” he told a Medical Insurance Workshop at the Movenpick Hotel yesterday.
The two-day workshop was organised by the Bahrain Insurance Association (BIA), under the patronage of Health Minister Dr Faisal Al Hamer.
The proposal was first drafted by the government in a legal format and presented to the Shura Council in 2005, said Dr Abul.
“The council approved it as a proposal and the government redrafted it in legal language and sent it to parliament in June 2006,” he revealed.
“As it happened during the end of the session of the last parliament, the sub-committee was not able to finish its work.
“As the new election got under way in October 2006, the proposal lapsed.
“It is now up to the government to request parliament to reactivate the proposal. The proposal is now on the shelf somewhere.”
Dr Abul said parliament would activate the proposal if the request was made by the government.
“If that happens, it may take three months for the sub-committee to finish its work and send it to the Shura Council for a review, and from there to His Majesty King Hamad for the royal assent,” he added.
Health Ministry Under-Secretary Dr Aziz Hamza said earlier that a draft law on compulsory health insurance was presented to the Shura Council in April 2007, and that the ministry was now waiting for approval by parliament and the Cabinet.
“I checked the records both at parliament and the Shura Council and I was not able to find any draft law presented last year,” said Dr Abul.
“Also, as it is already approved by the Shura in 2005, there is no need to present it again there.
“Now it is the job of parliament to study and approve it. What I want to say is that the proposed bill is not now in the legislative process.”
On the feasibility of the compulsory medical insurance, Dr Abul said the private sector was not yet prepared to share another burden.
“The global economic crisis has affected businesses in Bahrain as well,” he added.
“If the scheme is enforced now, the employers will transfer the extra costs to the consumers, which will only add to the inflationary effect .
“However, it is important to have medical insurance for expats. But we have to wait for the right time to implement it.