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Healthcare and Medical Insurance in Dubai
Health insurance options, and info on the health insurance industry in Dubai.
Dubai in recent years has experienced a financial growth unexpected to all. With this came the growth of business and foreign workers who need their health needs met. All of this put a stress on the already crowded state healthcare system. Dubai took new measure to start creating state of the art hospitals to cater to the needs of the expatriates, nationals and travelers alike.
Healthcare in Dubai
Healthcare in Dubai can be divided in two different sectors; public and private. While we are focusing on Dubai, each Emirate is able to dictate health care standards according to their internal laws, although the standards and regulations rarely have extreme differences.
Public hospitals in Dubai were first built in the late 1950’s and continued to grow with public health initiatives. In the 80’s to ‘98 there were more than 20 medical clinics built within the Emirate. Dubai decided to keep the momentum going by following the WHO’s policy of ‘Healthcare for all by 2000’ and kept building. 2007 launched a new year and a new initiative of the Dubai Health Care Authority, which opened to continue progress in regulations and movements in healthcare in regards to health care.
UAE nationals make up less than 20% of the population in Dubai, making the rest of the population foreign. In the past there has been no laws forbidding foreign nationals using the national and public healthcare systems. Unfortunately due to the population overload of the international community, most hospital beds seemed to be used less for those from the homeland and more for everybody else.
Health Insurance in Dubai
Dubai was planning to instate a policy which would make it mandatory for each foreign national or expatriate living and working in Dubai to acquire medical insurance. For example, in Abu Dhabi, 98 percent of residents own personal medical insurance as it is mandatory. However, with the financial crash of 2008 and the slow recovery of the local economy, Dubai has still yet to enforce this law. It was perceived that the law may have not gone into action as it may have meant the speedy exit of many a foreign nationals and businesses which refused to comply. It’s 2012 and nearing 2013, Dubai has yet to enforce this law on mandatory health insurance for expatriate workers.
Expatriates are able to buy different forms of health insurance privately within the Emirate. In Dubai, they are also able to gain access to the state’s health care system. If one decides to take access to the state healthcare system then one would need to get the state health card from the Ministry of Health Care. Health access is only available if the card is presented at public clinics or hospitals. If you own private medical insurance in Dubai you are expected to use the City’s private clinics or hospitals. Whereas the state system likes to reserve help for the people who do not hold private insurance like residents or nationals.
The perception of medical treatments in Dubai to the outside world is a vision of modern western style hospitals performing the same treatments at half the price as the US. Even so, according to a study performed by YouGov in 2009, 70% of residents said if they were seriously ill, they would seek treatment outside of the UAE. Also, 57% of residents said they would also seek treatment elsewhere in general practice. This statement reflects the view of the residents and their perspective on the healthcare in Dubai. Changes have been made in the UAE healthcare practice since 2009.
In 2012, according to a Gallup poll in the UAE in which 4,000 residents were surveyed; the UAE ranked second in the world, only after Qatar, with an 87 percent score on being ‘content with the quality of care provided in the UAE.’ This is a drastic change in comparison to the poll taken in 2009 by YouGov. The amount of Emirate residents traveling abroad for medical treatments also drastically changed. In 2010 2,858 people left the UAE for medical treatment, and in 2011 the number was 1,451 people leaving. In almost one year, the UAE cut the number in half and retained the residents going abroad. The number speaks for itself and the improving medical technology of Dubai.
With the fact that there is still a heightened trend of Dubai residents traveling overseas to obtain their medical care it is important for any individual, whether a foreign national or local Emirati, to carefully consider the type of UAE Medical Insurance coverage which they are planning to purchase. There are generally two types of health insurance plans available on a wide scale within Dubai which may be of use to expatriates and foreign nationals living in the city; the two types of coverage option are A) Local Health Insurance, B) International Health Insurance. While the scope of both these types of plan are generally very similar, there are some fundamental differences in the medical protection being offered which should be understood.
The first area of concern is with regards to the area of coverage offered by either Local or International medical insurance in Dubai. Most local coverage only provides in country healthcare and access to medical facilities located within the UAE. Expatriates and local nationals are able to buy local coverage but need to do so knowing that these types of policies do not cover you anywhere outside the country of purchase. Additionally local insurance coverage premiums in the UAE, and in most countries, are based on personal claims made; usually making the initial price of local insurance coverage cheaper than its international counterpart. However, because local UAE health insurance plans are, for the most part, history or “experience” rated it should be understood that the cost of these policies will often rise dramatically after the policyholder has submitted a claim.
Because local health insurance plans in Dubai are typically only able to provide healthcare coverage and treatment options within the UAE it should be noted that the quality of medical treatment the policyholder is able to receive under a domestic coverage option may not be equal to the quality of care available in the expatriate’s home country. Furthermore, because local health insurance plans will only provide protection with a certain country, these plans are unable to cover the policyholder if they venture overseas or return to their home country. Although local coverage may seem appealing at first due to the lower premium costs, in the long run it may not provide to be the best purchase for expatriates.
International medical insurance coverage is also offered in the UAE. There are many different companies and brokers to serve the expatriate and local population. The bonus of international private medical insurance for the expatriate is that it follows you wherever you go. You are able to specify plan terms, locations and guidelines depending on where you live, work and travel. The international insurance premiums also run on a different pricing system, instead of basing your next premium off of your old claims from the past, it bases it off of the community of people in your age bracket. This would make your insurance more affordable, even if you had recently experienced a medical trauma in the past year. If an expatriate were to have local coverage and move countries it would be a sticky situation with the waiting period, pre-existing conditions and possible spike in premium costs. International private medical insurance covers expatriates around the world, catering to the coverage they need in a way local insurance can not.
Medical Tourism in Dubai
The government has been promoting Dubai as a leading destination for medical tourism. In 2012, Dubai Healthcare City launched an international medical and health travel book offering explanations and directories of services which are available locally. Dubai has spent time and money preparing for the boom of medical tourists. This expansion is due to the growth of the medical tourism market in 2010-2011 by 12%, in dollars this is representative approximately US $8 billion.
Dubai medical centers now have connections with the worlds top noted medical establishments, such as Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Harvard Medical School. Although Dubai has now started building world class facilities that rival hospitals in the west, there is still competition elsewhere. Southeast Asia offers cheap destinations for medical tourism as well. Thailand and India compete with Dubai in cost-efficiency and quality of care. Dubai is looking to compare in quality with the west while being able to offer prices that can be less than half the cost of healthcare provided in western countries.
The CEO of the Health Policy and Strategy Sector, stated that: “Health tourism in the city is expected to generate AED6.1bn by the end of 2012.” Preparing for the future of Dubai medical tourism is an understatement, as the emirate already holds over 4,700 doctors from all walks of life, speaking 40 different languages.
As much as Dubai is yearning to become the hot new destination for medical tourism, is the emirate ready? At the moment, there is no Dubai Medical Tourism Board, whom would be able to regulate certain laws with an authoritative voice, enabling standards across procedures and hospitals. Not only would this benefit and protect the future patient, but ensure protection for each establishment performing medical procedures.
Some tips for being a prepared traveller or foreign national using healthcare in Dubai:
-Make sure that you choose your private Dubai insurance policy intelligently, finding a plan that suits you best. Know where your clinics and hospitals are located and have the addresses on hand or at a moments reach.
-As the ambulance or rescue driver situation in Dubai is different from other developed countries, it may be best to take a taxi in emergency situations as trusting the rescue service, may take longer.
-If you are a resident using the state healthcare, try to keep the card on you at all times to avoid potential problems if there is an emergency, so you can receive immediate medical treatment.
-Dubai still has strict rules about prescription medication. Please adhere to these rules and check before entering the UAE with certain prescription drugs.
Links for more information on healthcare in Dubai: