Jordan: Improving care

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The health care sector in Jordan is poised to benefit from two recent agreements promising to increase the number of medical tourists visiting the country’s hospitals, which offer some of the highest quality services in the region.

The Private Hospitals Association (PHA) recently announced two agreements to bring more medical tourists to Jordan, according to The Jordan Times. One agreement will see more Nigerians referred to the Kingdom’s hospitals for medical care, as opposed to being recommended to hospitals in Egypt or India, as is currently the case. Some 300,000 Nigerians left their country for medical treatment in 2011, but only 250 came to Jordan, the paper reported.

Under the new accord, a Nigerian consulting company will be appointed to promote private medical care opportunities in Jordan, and help ensure the health care payment methods of those Nigerians interested will be honoured.

The PHA has also negotiated a health insurance reciprocal agreement with the Gulf Health Insurance Association that will allow the insurance of Jordanians and Palestinians working as expatriates in the Gulf to be honoured by hospitals in Jordan.

These agreements should bring more revenue into Jordan’s private health industry, allowing the sector to upgrade facilities and attract higher-value staff – a key factor if interest in private health insurance is to continue to expand. Jordan’s Insurance Commission (IC) is predicting consumer expenditures to grow around 6.1% year-on-year between 2011 and 2015. The Ministry of Health (MoH), meanwhile, is running a series of public awareness campaigns on the importance of having health insurance.

Other organisations are beginning to take notice. “The World Bank recently named Jordan the 5th-strongest medical tourism destination in the world,” Abdallah Hindawi, the CEO of Jordan's Private Hospitals Association, told OBG. “This ranking reflects the health sector's advanced medical equipment, short waiting times, value for money, and high quality customer service. "

As a sign of the Kingdom’s increasing importance, Bupa International, one of the world’s leading health insurance providers, recently held a conference on the future of health insurance at Jordan’s Kempinski Hotel Ishtar near the Dead Sea. The international organisation sees potential for growth in Jordan’s health insurance segment, in part due to cooperation between the Kingdom’s private medical establishment and other insurers internationally.

Around 100 representatives took part in the proceedings, representing medical insurance firms from the Gulf, such as Oman Insurance Company and Bupa Arabia, as well as countries further afield.

The new attention comes on the back of significant overall improvements in the country’s health care sector. A recent report by the Department of Statistics indicates that Jordan has achieved substantial development in medical services since 1950, with the country’s number of hospitals increasing from 14 to 106, and the number of hospital beds from 464 to almost 12,000. Likewise, with the basics of health care already well established, the industry is beginning to target more advanced and specialised health issues, such as treating mental disorders, local media has reported.

In a sign that private sector value may be increasing along with the rest of the sector, the Jordan Medical Association (JMA) recently set a new minimum wage for both private sector general practitioners and private sector medical specialists, almost doubling the figures for each.

According to Naim Abu Nabaa, the chairman of the JMA’s private sector committee, some general practitioners in Jordan are paid less than JD400 ($562) per month, while some specialists receive less than JD800 ($1125) per month. The new rules raise general practitioner pay to at least JD850 ($1195) per month, while setting a monthly minimum salary of JD1500 ($2109) for medical specialists.

Abu Nabaa called on Jordan’s insurance firms to respect the new rules, and to stop making “victims” of private sector doctors by charging them service fees for being in their network or billing them for the right to be published in an insurance network guide.

“We have received many complaints about contract violations,” Abu Nabaa told The Jordan Times. “Doctors receive discounted payments from insurance companies, which are less than the fees they agreed upon.”

Provided the Kingdom’s insurers respect the new rules, the country’s private health care sector should continue to grow and attract more attention both abroad and domestically, which would likely encourage an uptick in the purchase of private health insurance.

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