How To Keep Your Insurance Costs Low In The UAE

If you are an expat who is resident and employed in the UAE, you will need to have private health cover. Until 2019, public healthcare had not been open to expat residents of the Emirates, although now there is limited eligibility for expats to become citizens of the UAE if they are in some professions: the so-called ‘Gold Card’ visa.The majority of expats will not be entitled to public healthcare and will therefore be dependent on private health insurance, whether supplied by their employers (this is compulsory in some Emirates, such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai), or taken out privately.

Personalising Your Health Insurance Cover

As of 21 May 2019, the UAE has started granting permanent residence under the aforementioned ‘Gold Card’ visa scheme to “exceptional professionals.” This includes “investors and exceptional doctors, engineers, scientists and artists.”

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 also be able to access the public healthcare sector in the UAE.

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Public healthcare is only available to expats with a "Gold Card"

If this does not apply to you, then you will need to rely on private insurance cover, either as part of your employment package, or taken out separately by yourself. Check with your employer if you are in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, to find out whether you have been registered with one of the government-approved insurance schemes: either on a comprehensive plan or, for lower paid workers, a basic policy.

Selectable Options

Check the small print of any private health insurance policy to see whether it covers treatments that you may want to access, such as specialist surgical treatment or more advanced dental care, for example, crowns or dental implants.

Remember to check if your potential policy covers pre-existing conditions: the definition of this will vary between insurers. Usually the term applies to any conditions which present symptoms or for which you’ve been treated in the last five years. This normally includes any conditions you were diagnosed with over five years ago, but some insurers have different time limits for diagnosis.

Check whether your policy covers pre-existing conditions

You may also want to check out whether your policy has a ‘hospitalisation’ clause covering you for occasional hospital visits. You might need to discuss this directly with your insurer.

Take a good look at any potential policy for any cover relating to healthcare which does not apply to you: some policies have provision for maternity care, for instance, and if you are not intending to become pregnant (or prefer to rely on the cover provided by the maternity system in the UAE), then you may wish to reduce your policy costs by having such options removed.

Cost Sharing

You may also be able to reduce the cost of your premium through ‘cost sharing’: this means that you and your insurer will share the costs of any treatment. You will pay up to an agreed limit, and your provider will cover the rest.

Cost sharing can be a good way to keep costs down

Different insurers will have different ways of arranging cost sharing. Some common ones include the following.

Co-pay: where you pay a fixed sum for your treatment and your insurer covers the rest. For instance, if the total cost of your treatment is $85, and your co-pay amount is set at $40, then you will pay $40 and your insurer will pay $45.

Co-insurance: where you pay a fixed percentage of the total cost and your insurer covers the rest. For instance, if your co-insurance is set at 20%, you will pay 20% of $85 and your insurer will cover the remaining 80%.

Deductibles: where you pay the entire amount allowed for all services provided until the deductible is met. For instance, if your policy has a $1,000 annual deductible, you would pay $85 for each visit to a healthcare clinic. However, you would then have to pay the entire amount for 11 such visits ($1000/$85 = 11.8) before your insurance began to pay out to the doctor directly.

Check to see what kind of cost sharing your insurer offers

You may also need to take a look at whether there is an out-of-pocket maximum that you would be expected to pay after your deductible has been met.

Let’s say that your plan above, with a $1000 deductible, also has a co-insurance option of 20% and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1500. You will thus pay $85 for 11 visits to the doctor under your deductible until it is met. You will then pay $17 for each visit as your 20% coinsurance, until you reach the co-insurance ceiling of $500 ($1,500 minus the deductible of $1,000), or about 29 more visits ($500$17 = 29.4). At that point (40 total visits in a year), you would pay nothing more for the remainder of the plan year.

It’s worth doing the maths, especially if you don’t think that you’ll need to make more than a couple of visits to your GP in any one policy period. For example, if you just want dental check-ups with an occasional filling, it might be worth working out whether one or two out-of-pocket costs might be cheaper than full dental cover.

As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance in the UAE, 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, 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.

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