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Saudi insurance companies raise premiums as upper limit for health coverage set to rise: executive - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Saudi medical staff leave the emergency department at a hospital in the center of the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 8, 2014.</nr>(AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Saudi medical staff leave the emergency department at a hospital in the center of the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 8, 2014.

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabian insurance companies have raised their health insurance premiums after the Kingdom’s health insurance regulator recommended raising the upper limit of coverage in the country by 100 percent, a senior insurance company executive told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The executive, who works for a leading domestic insurance company and requested anonymity, said that Saudi Arabia’s Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) had submitted a policy paper calling for the upper limit for health insurance coverage in the Kingdom to be raised from 250,000 Saudi rials (67,000 US dollars) to 500,000 rials (133,000 dollars).

He added that the recommendations were now “in the process of being implemented” and would be effective from the beginning of August.

Asharq Al-Awsat has learned that the CCHI put forward the changes in order to cater for patients in the Kingdom suffering from terminal illnesses. These patients may not be able to obtain health insurance policies covering the entire cost of their treatment, which due to the nature of the illnesses may run for years.

The majority of health insurance policy holders in the Kingdom are expats, for whom health insurance was made compulsory in 2005, who currently make up one-fifth of the population.

The Saudi insurance sector is dominated by health and automotive insurance, accounting for 55 and 23 percent of the domestic market respectively, according to a report by Albilad Capital released earlier this year.

The top three health insurance providers in the country together accounted for over 75 percent of the country’s market in 2013. Gross premiums written rose by 14 percent year-on-year, with an accompanying 35 percent rise in claims.

The insurance sector in the Kingdom is characterized by fierce competition among the few insurance providers.

At 1 percent, penetration rates remain well below the global average rate of 6.5 percent.