In January 2014, it became mandatory for residents in Dubai to subscribe to a medical insurance. The resident group whom this primarily concerns is the expatriates; “Foreign nationals account for 90 per cent of its population, leading to claims that indigenous citizens were being squeezed out of hospital beds,” indicates the Telegraph.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA), responsible for health policies, has two objectives: giving universal access to quality health care and stimulating the booming emirate economy. Essa Al Maidoor, director-general of the DHA, explained during a press conference: “The health insurance mandate will provide a significant boost to the health insurance industry; it will attract investment in the health care sector and will generate healthy competition between providers as well as health facilities. This only means further improvement in the quality of health services as well as more health care options and competitive premium prices”.
In general, the Dubai government pays for the healthcare of Dubai nationals and employers are responsible for paying for their expatriate employees, and where possible, their dependants. Dubai nationals employed in the private sector can decide whether they want to be covered by their employer or through the government scheme.
To aid companies during implementation, the DHA has fixed different deadlines.
Companies that include more than 1,000 employees had to provide medical cover by October 2014. Companies with between 100 to 999 employees have until July 2015. Finally, companies with less than 100 employees have until June 2016. Spouses, dependants and domestic staff should also be covered before end of June 2016.
The health insurance mandate applies to 2 million people. At the moment, a third of the population in Dubai has medical insurance, confirmed the Emirati journal The National.
What is the level of cover?
The minimum cover (essential benefits plan) must include: emergency care, access to general physician (GP), referral to specialists, tests and investigations, surgical procedures, physiotherapy, prescribed medicine and maternity care (prenatal care, delivery, and postnatal care).
Dental and optical covers are excluded except in case of medical emergencies.
How the health insurance mandate will impact the expatriates?
The health insurance mandate is now a requirement to obtain a work permit in Dubai.
However, this new policy does not fundamentally affect the middle to upper class expatriate community, as most of them already have medical insurance, given the high cost of health care in the UAE.
By contrast, workers (mostly originating from India and North Africa) who were not previously covered will now require insurance, which represents an important improvement of their social protection.
Regulating the insurance companies
The insurance companies will have to be licensed in order to trade in Dubai, explained the DHA director general Al Maidoor. “In order to ensure we have the very best insurance companies on board, the DHA has laid out a set of criteria that all insurance companies need to adhere to, so that they are eligible to receive a health insurance permit, which is mandatory for companies that want to provide a health cover to anyone in Dubai.”
Dubai followed Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s lead, where health insurance has been mandatory since 2008 and 1999 respectively. Many observers consider that the other Emirates will implement a similar system where the State delegates most of the health care management to the private sector.
If you would like more information about health in Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates, please visit our expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Dubai and the UAE.
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