An expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Dubai and the UAE 

Are you researching an expat health insurance for Dubai or the United Arab Emirates? It is important to inform yourself on the local healthcare system first.

This guide is for people moving to Dubai or another of the United Arab Emirates. It gives an insight on the local healthcare system, your different options of medical insurance for Dubai or the other Emirates and an overview of the average cost of local healthcare.

Health statistics for the UAE 

  • Total population (2017): 9.4 million
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2017): 74,410
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2016): 76/79
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2016): 80/56
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2014): 2,405
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2014) 3.6
Healthcare in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates for expats

With 90% of its residents being foreign, the UAE is one of the countries with the highest percentage of expatriates in the world. The majority of expats live in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two emirates where the proportion of nationals is very low.

This proportion of expatriates is revealed through hospital patient records wherein expatriates count for nearly 75% of patients in public hospitals and nearly 100% of the patients in private hospitals.

Mirroring the high proportion of expatriates, the health care system in the UAE is equally international: there are GPs and specialists of all nationalities speaking multiple languages, thus catering to their international patients.

In Dubai, healthcare is managed by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). In Abu Dhabi, healthcare is managed by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD). The other emirates (Ajman, Sharjah, Fujarai, Ras el Khaimah and Oumm al Qaiwain) are regulated by the Ministry of Health, UAE.

Throughout the UAE, no matter what type of visa you hold, you cannot benefit from free health care if you are foreign. As the majority of the population is made up of foreign nationals the country does not want their healthcare costs to be funded by the public finances.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have imposed legislation obliging residents to have health insurance: it is also now compulsory to have insurance in order to gain a visa. This system has been in place since 2008 in Abu Dhabi, and expatriates without insurance risk being asked to leave the country.

This system has been introduced in Dubai between January 2014 and March 2017.  All companies must offer health insurance to their employees. This also applies to spouses, dependants and domestic staff.

The health insurance plans are provided by private companies supervised and regulated by the local authorities (the DHA in Dubai and the HAAD in Abu Dhabi).

The minimum health cover in Dubai (called the essential benefits plan) must include hospitalisation, GP cover, specialist cover (when referred by a GP), prescribed medicine, diagnostic tests, emergencies, physiotherapy and maternity (prenatal care, delivery and postnatal care). Dental and optical cover is excluded except in case of medical emergencies.  However, dental insurance is highly recommended due to the cost of certain procedures.
 

Quality of healthcare in the UAE

There are no long waiting lists or problems of overpopulation within the healthcare centres whether in the public or private sector.

The level of healthcare is usually of a good standard, similar to those of Western Europe or of the United States. Both the infrastructures and the equipment are modern and up to date.

However, for specialised treatment, it may be necessary to be treated elsewhere and those who are able to often go abroad.

One element which often surprises expatriates is that numerous buildings are so modern and high tech that they resemble a hotel more than they do a hospital. Nevertheless, this modernity comes at a price and healthcare in the UAE is extremely expensive.

International health insurance for expats in Dubai and the UAE

An international health insurance for Dubai or the UAE is often a better option for expats than a local health plan. It allows you to be seen by the doctor of your choice in the medical centre of your choice. Another added benefit is that if you prefer to be treated in your home country, or another country, then your costs will still be reimbursed (as long as the countries are covered within your zone of cover of your chosen policy). Moreover, if you move away from the UAE your international insurance can follow you to your new country of residence.

It is always important that your international insurance is in line with the local legislation. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you must sign up for an insurance which has been approved by the local authorities. If your insurance is not in line with these regulations, it will be valid only outside of the UAE and you will have to be covered by a local insurance for costs incurred within the UAE. In the other emirates of the UAE you are able to be covered by the insurance of your choice.

Expat Assure helps you decide the most appropriate expat health insurance for Portugal depending on your situation and needs. Don’t hesitate to contact us for your personalised health insurance comparison.

If you would like wider financial protection in the event of stopping work due to an accident or disabling illness, Expat Assure can also advise you on expat life insurance for Portugal and income protection. To find out more, please, read our page on income protection and life insurance for expatriates.

 
Please note that due to recent legislation Expat Assure is unable to offer insurance for Abu Dhabi. This does not affect the other Emirates.
What is the best health insurance for expats in Dubai and the UAE?

The best health insurance in Dubai and the UAE for another expat might not be the best for you as everyone has different needs and expectations.

In order to find which one is the best health insurance in Dubai for you, it is important to consider several aspects such as your medical history, your age, your specific needs in terms of medical cover, your situation in Dubai, alongside other parameters. 

Expat Assure helps you to find the international medical insurance for Dubai that best suits your profile and needs. Contact us today to request your free an non-obligatory health insurance comparison.

How much does healthcare cost in Dubai and the UAE?

The cost of a doctor’s consultation varies from practitioner to practitioner and from practice to practice. However, the French Consulate in Dubai released an approximation of costs: “A GP consultation costs around 400 dirhams ($109/£85*). For a specialist, the cost can vary between 400 and 1,000 dirham ($272/£214). A child’s bout of bronchitis can cost around 200 dollars/£157, for the consultations, follow-ups and medicines.”

*Based on October 2018 exchange rates

What is the cost of private health insurance in Dubai?

Such as with any type of health insurance, the price of a medical insurance for expats in Dubai varies greatly depending on the personal situation, the age, the medical history of each individual as well as other parameters.

If you would like to have an idea of the cost of private health insurance for Dubai, we can prepare for you a personalised comparison of different international health insurance plans. Contact us today for your free health insurance comparison.

Practical information

Vaccinations
There are no specific vaccinations required to enter UAE. However, it is recommended to make sure your diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccinations are up-to-date. It is also advised to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid. Please see the NHS Fit-for-Travel website for more information.

Emergency numbers
997: Fire brigade
998: Ambulance
999: Police
999: Medical emergencies (ask for the “first responder” service)

Medicines
Certain medicines are illegal in the UAE (including sedatives, sleeping aids and antidepressants). It is advised to always have your doctor’s prescription with you when you are in possession of any medication. For more information please consult the UAE’s Ministry of Health.

Weather
Even though the winter months (October-March) offer some of the most agreeable weather in the world, the temperature can rise up to 50°C in the summer. The risk of sun stroke and sun burn is therefore extremely elevated. Dehydration is another danger that should not be underestimated as it can be potentially fatal. In summer, the levels of humidity equally contribute to the level of discomfort, and can lead to recurring eye infections.

 

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Vaccinations
There are no specific vaccinations required to enter UAE. However, it is recommended to make sure your diphtheria, tetanus and polio vaccinations are up-to-date. It is also advised to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and typhoid. Please see the NHS Fit-for-Travel website for more information.

Emergency numbers
997: Fire brigade
998: Ambulance
999: Police
999: Medical emergencies (ask for the “first responder” service)

Medicines
Certain medicines are illegal in the UAE (including sedatives, sleeping aids and antidepressants). It is advised to always have your doctor’s prescription with you when you are in possession of any medication. For more information please consult the UAE’s Ministry of Health.

Weather
Even though the winter months (October-March) offer some of the most agreeable weather in the world, the temperature can rise up to 50°C in the summer. The risk of sun stroke and sun burn is therefore extremely elevated. Dehydration is another danger that should not be underestimated as it can be potentially fatal. In summer, the levels of humidity equally contribute to the level of discomfort, and can lead to recurring eye infections.