The government has come under scrutiny for its failure to provide a definitive timeline for the expansion of the Aasandha health insurance scheme to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Thailand. Despite President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s assertion earlier this year of the administration’s intention to extend the services, details remain vague.

In an interview with Public Service Media, President Muizzu expressed high expectations for the expansion within the year, citing rapid progress in administrative arrangements. However, specifics regarding the commencement date were not disclosed. This announcement followed a statement made in January, where the President highlighted the plan to broaden Aasandha services to countries known for superior medical care, including the UAE and Thailand, during a press briefing after his state visit to China.

Social and Family Development Minister Dr Aishath Shiham also recently faced questions from the parliamentarians about the extension but did not provide a clear start date for when Maldivians can access health services under Aasandha in these new locations. The initiative, intended to include coverage for accommodation, aims to enhance the quality of healthcare available to Maldivians abroad.

The Aasandha scheme, currently facilitating medical treatment in select facilities in Sri Lanka and India, is a crucial component of the Maldives’ healthcare system. However, its expansion comes amid concerns over the growing financial burden on the state, with Aasandha costs increasing by 60% over the past five years. The government has allocated MVR 1.9 billion for Aasandha services in this year’s budget, indicating the scheme’s significant impact on national expenditure.

Dr Shiham reassured that the extension would not reduce the number of individuals benefiting from Aasandha, despite the high costs associated with healthcare in the UAE and Thailand. Efforts to devise a policy aligning with the budget and discussions on service models and costs are ongoing, with announcements promised once finalised.

Yet, the absence of a specific launch date raises questions about the government’s readiness and the practicality of its plans.