How does the state health insurance system work?
Healthcare and health insurance are governed by different regulatory authorities throughout the UAE, including the Ministry of Health and Prevention; Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD); the Dubai Health Authority (DHA); and the Emirates Health Authority (EHA).
Healthcare throughout the Emirates is of a high standard whether it is government-funded or private. State health insurance is unlikely to apply to expats unless they become nationals, and the criteria for becoming a UAE national are quite restrictive. If you are not covered by a scheme associated with your employer (or if you want to top up the cover they have provided), you will need to take out private health insurance.
Fines of 500 AED per month ($136) are charged for every uninsured month in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but since as an expat you will need proof of health insurance in order to apply for a visa, you should not encounter this issue.
In Abu Dhabi, employers are legally responsible for arranging coverage for employees. You will therefore have mandatory cover if you are working for a company here.
In Dubai, your employer may or may not sign you up for a group insurance plan. The Dubai Government is currently working with the Federal Government to make health insurance funded by employers compulsory. All government employees and their dependants will be covered by a health insurance scheme called Enaya: a partnership between Dubai Health Authority and Neuron LLC.
Even if you are insured by your employer, you will still need to pay some out of pocket expenses for healthcare, usually around 10% of any treatment. The state will pay clinics and hospitals, but if you go beyond the healthcare network covered by your insurance provider, you may need to pay upfront and then claim the money back later.
Most expats will be based in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. However, in the northern Emirates (Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Umm Al-Quwain), it is not mandatory for employers to provide health insurance to their employees. In this case, you will need to take out private cover.
If you need to visit one of the public hospitals in the case of an emergency, you will need a health card from the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). To apply, you need:
- a copy of your passport
- a covering letter from a sponsor
- a visa application copy
- two passport size photographs
- a completed application form
The cost will vary from AED 100 ($27) for those under nine years of age, to AED 300 ($82) for over 18s.
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Who is eligible for state healthcare?
Only citizens of the UAE are eligible for national healthcare. If you are an expat who is not a citizen, and your employer does not register you with a health insurance provider, you have two possibilities:
- arranging private cover for yourself
- registering with the Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) which provides the same coverage as the UAE public healthcare, but which is only available to those earning less than 4,000 AED per month ($1,090 USD)
If you have domestic staff, you are responsible for their health insurance and will need to register them with the EBP or another private provider.
As of 21 May 2019, however, the UAE has started granting permanent residence to “exceptional professionals.” This includes “investors and exceptional doctors, engineers, scientists and artists.” The visa is called the Gold Card. The first round of visas will be granted to 6,800 expats.
Permanent resident status will automatically be granted to your dependents if you are a Gold Card holder. Permanent residents will also be granted 100% ownership of any businesses or business assets without needing an Emirate partner.
If this applies to you, you should be able to access the public healthcare system in due course.
In Dubai,the government has now made it compulsory for employers to take out health insurance for employees. Employers are obliged to provide minimum medical insurance cover for their employees from an insurance company that is approved by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?
If your employer provides you with health insurance cover, they will issue you with the documentation you need. If your employer does not offer cover, and you are not a UAE citizen, you will need to arrange private cover since the Emirates’ national health insurance schemes will not be open to you.
If you are a UAE citizen living in Abu Dhabi, you will need to go for a Weqaya screening via the Department of Health. This is a comprehensive medical checkup that will identify any risk factors you may face. You can then visit the Tamm website, where you can download a Thiqa form. Once you have filled this in and sent it back, you will receive a Thiqa card and you can then register with a local doctor.
If you are a UAE citizen living in Dubai, you will need to visit a Saada enrolment center and request to join the scheme. They will ask you to fill out a form and bring in some identification: usually your passport and proof of address. Once you have enrolled, the details of your Saada scheme will be added to your Emirates ID card, and you will need to take this card along with you to any medical appointments.
What is covered by the state health insurance system?
Public health insurance will differ slightly depending on which Emirate you are working in, but in general it will cover:
- basic health services (GP visits; diagnosis and treatments; visits to specialists and consultants; laboratory services; radiology diagnostic services; physiotherapy services; prescribed drugs and other medicines)
- emergency treatment
- maternity services
- preventive services (essential vaccinations and immunizations for children and newborns)
Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?
The UAE is not typically a retirement choice due to the stringent citizenship requirements. If you do retire here (for example, under a business investment visa), you will need to take out private health insurance in order to apply for your visa.
Are students covered by state medical insurance?
Check with your educational institution whether a health insurance policy is included in your student visa: some include health insurance as part of the student package and some do not.
Will your family be covered by your insurance?
Abu Dhabi: employers are responsible for taking out health insurance coverage for employees and their dependants. This will cover one spouse and three children under the age of 18. If you have a fourth child, you will have to arrange separate cover for them.
Dubai: some employers take out health insurance coverage for employees, but since they are not legally required to do so, you may need to take out separate cover for your family.
Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?
Dental treatment is usually not covered and you will need to take out a private plan to cover any dental costs. If you are in Dubai, however, and eligible for Enaya, this will cover basic dental treatment.
What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?
If you are employed, your contributions will depend on your salary and will be split between you and your employer: costs will depend on which provider your employer is using.
The EBP costs between 550 and 650 AED per year ($150–$175 USD).
Why buy private health insurance?
You will need to take out private cover if you are not covered by your employer or if you are not eligible for the EBP. Medical treatment in the UAE is expensive, though of a high quality, and many expats choose private insurance plans.
Some expats also choose private cover to avoid long waiting times for diagnosis and treatment.
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What is covered by private health insurance?
Private health insurance will cover basic treatment, consultations and diagnosis, but plans may also include:
- dental treatment
- vision care/glasses
- hearing aids
The Emirates are also a centre for medical tourism, including orthopedic treatments, dermatology and ophthalmology, with Dubai specialising in dental, cosmetic and fertility treatments.
How much does private health insurance cost?
A basic coverage plan for a family of four will be around 17,000 AED ($4,630 USD) per year, but can go up to 33,500 AED ($9,120) on a comprehensive plan.
For those seeking international private medical insurance (iPMI) cover for multiple countries including United Arab Emirates, numerous variables can have an impact on the cost.
The most important variables are:
- age (the higher the more expensive)
- area of cover (i.e. in addition to United Arab Emirates, which other areas is coverage required in? If those other areas include any of the US, the Caribbean, Singapore, China or Hong Kong this can significantly increase the overall price)
- product choice (higher end insurance products are more expensive)
Other variables include:
- payment frequency
- country of residence
As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance in United Arab Emirates it becomes very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required. However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40 year old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.
Which companies offer private health insurance?
Many providers cover the region, including:
- AXA Gulf Insurance
- Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company (ADNIC)
- Cigna Global
- Emirates Insurance Company
- Ras Al Khaimah National Insurance Company
- Dubai Islamic Insurance & Reinsurance Co
- Oman Insurance Company
Glossary of health insurance terms
Essential Benefits Plan/EBP - health insurance for those earning less than 4,000 AED per month