Since 1 January, it has been a mandatory requirement that all expats must have health insurance to live and work in Dubai, or face fines for not having it.
Expats face a monthly fine of Dh500 (£109/$136) for not complying with Isahd (Insurance System for Advancing Healthcare in Dubai), which in Arabic means ‘bringing happiness’.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) initiative began in 2014, with the aim of rolling out sustainable healthcare for all expats, citizens and visitors to Dubai.The final phase was completed on 30 June 2016 and the last deadline was set for the end of the year, for mandatory health insurance cover.
This phase saw the introduction of the Essential Benefits Plan (EBF) which was aimed at expats on lower salaries, as well as providing cover for children, domestic helps and non-working residents.
The idea is to provide good quality healthcare insurance, at a reasonable price.
Expats working in Dubai will be covered by their employer’s insurance scheme
Most expats working in Dubai will be covered by their employer’s insurance scheme, which will provide a higher level of cover while the Essential Benefits Plan offers a standard package with premiums ranging from Dh650 to Dh725 per year.
For those expats who couldn’t afford health insurance for their elderly parents, or a non-working spouse, the EBP provided them with reasonably priced health insurance alternative.
It should also be noted that for those expats in Dubai with dependents, the price for the EBP plan varies according to the person being covered; for those who are not working and aged up to 65, their plan will cost from Dh650.
But for elderly parents, the price for their cover will rise to Dh2,500 and for non-working married women aged between 18 and 45, the plan will cost from Dh1,600.
However, the EBP does not provide help for overseas treatments and there is a cap on the medical cover provided. Expats who have domestic helpers, such as house maids, cooks and drivers, need to appreciate that if they earn less than Dh4,000 every month, then these staff members will need to have cover under the EBP scheme.
Health insurance schemes
For anyone earning more than Dh4,000 a month in Dubai, the employer is free to select another health insurance scheme, but this must meet, or be better than the benefits of the EBP.
Expats also need to be aware that it is illegal for their employer to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums from their pay, or even to reduce an expat’s salary, for them to be eligible under the EBP plan.
As mentioned previously, there is a cap on the annual limit for claims made under the EBP basic plan, which is currently Dh150,000.
Essentially, the plan will provide for inpatient and outpatient treatments, including examination and diagnosis, as well as treatment, with 20% of the bill payable by the insured person. The balance is picked up by the insurer.
The EBP also provides for medicines worth up to Dh1,500, with the insured paying 30% per prescription and there’s also ambulance and emergency healthcare cover as well.
Surgery and hospital stays
Should expats need surgery or a hospital stay while in Dubai, their portion under the co-insurance scheme will be capped at Dh500 – even if they have major surgery, worth for instance, Dh40,000.
The scheme also provides for immunisation and preventative medicine procedures for children as well as newborns.
For expats who have chronic or pre-existing medical conditions, these need to be declared when they apply for their health insurance and they will receive full cover, after a six-month waiting period.
Any emergency health care needed in relation to their condition, within the waiting period will be covered like all other claims under the scheme.
It’s important that expats also appreciate that the basic EBP plan provides cover for the issues described above, in Dubai and also for emergency treatment in Abu Dhabi and other Emirate states – though it is always wise to examine the small print and to discuss with the insurer what the plan covers within the UAE.
Enhanced health insurance plans
All expats can opt for an enhanced health insurance plan, that will provide cover in other countries,but, they may be facing premiums of Dh15,000 for it and have a product that does not provide the benefits of the EBP while overseas – and even the insurer may not agree to cover any medical expenses from outside of the UAE.
For expats needing the mandatory EBP health scheme, then the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has issued health insurance permits to 45 recognised insurers.
The move towards mandatory health insurance cover for those living in Dubai has been an unqualified success; of the four million people living there, the DHA says that 98% had health cover in place by the deadline.
It’s also important for expats to know that unlike many other mandatory health insurance schemes around the world, they cannot turn up at a hospital for treatment and instead they must visit their GP (general practitioner) or doctor who will examine the expat first and then recommend a hospital admission.
The mandatory health insurance move is part of the Emirate’s aim of providing those living there with some of the world’s best healthcare. There are also campaigns to reduce the number of people with chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Indeed, the country is climbing the charts for its quality of healthcare offering – it has risen from 2015’s position of 34th to 28th last year.
Finally, it’s not just important for peace of mind that all expats living and working in Dubai get health insurance cover for themselves but that their dependents do too, because they will need it when they apply for, or renew their visa.
Failure to comply with the need for mandatory health insurance cover may see the expat being fined Dh500 every month and then face legal complications for non-compliance which may, ultimately, lead to them being deported from Dubai.
The DHA website offers a full list of health insurance providers in Dubai and more information about the mandatory scheme.