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Middle East: Universities introduce health insurance

Saudi universities have launched a health insurance scheme for their academic and administrative staff, sidestepping the objections of the Ministry of Health.

The ministry, which says it is responsible for health services, objects to the universities’ move, saying it is currently studying a health insurance program. This program would cover all government employees including university staff. The health insurance scheme in the Kingdom has only been implemented in the private sector.

“These schemes are not useful in terms of health service because of the presence of a vast health system of advanced medical centers and hospitals,” a knowledgeable source said.

A number of Saudi universities have made contract agreements with private insurance companies. The educational endowments in various universities meet the cost of the insurance partly. The universities that have started circulating details of the contract agreements have asked staff members to submit health insurance applications. The insurance is implemented in three categories with token fees that would be deducted from the employees’ salaries in monthly installments.

The source said King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah was the first to launch the insurance scheme, bypassing the objections of the Ministry of Health which says it should offer the insurance with its advanced hospitals and health centers offering free service.

The educational endowments in universities will shoulder 50 percent of the total fees while a staff member will have to repay half of his insurance coverage in soft installments, said Sharie Al-Bugami, spokesman of King Abdulaziz University.

The educational endowment supported the scheme because social service was one of its major goals. The endowment also considered its support as a token of appreciation of the efforts of the university faculties for scientific research activities and other goals of the endowment in collaboration with the university staff, said Al-Bugami.

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