What are the Costs of Having a Baby in the UAE?
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What are the Costs of Having a Baby in the UAE?

Planning on starting a family in the UAE? UMI has all the necessary information you need.

The pitter-patter of tiny feet is a well-worn expression. But if you are a resident of the UAE (or planning on being one), when you have a baby it pays to ensure you’ve done your research when it comes to the costs involved. You see, those little steps could very quickly begin to resemble an oncoming freight train if you aren’t prepared, or, more importantly; you aren’t insured. 

A recent case in Dubai has, rather tragically, highlighted the plight of many who fail to plan and provide adequate cover for maternity costs and all possible eventualities, however statistically unlikely and remote they may seem.

Cosima Tataruseanu was rushed to hospital at 36 weeks back in October 2012, and her baby Maria was born via a C-section procedure. Doctors detected a rare breathing condition and, at the time of writing, in early January 2013, Maria is still in the NICU of privately owned Mediclinic Welcare Hospital. Unfortunately, Cosima was not insured and the couple now face the full impact of mounting NICU costs of around Dh6000 per day, which have far outstripped their capacity to pay. Maria’s father; Catalin has gone to the media with a plea for help to cover the costs. Both parents work as Sales Assistants at a local mall, and in an article in Gulf News, Catalin claims they have maxed out their credit cards and borrowed from family and friends in an attempt to meet the costs. Financially, it’s looking bleak but the only other ‘option’ seems even less viable; i.e. moving Maria back to the couple’s native Romania where treatment is free but would require transporting her on a stratospherically expensive medically equipped private jet, and the hospital’s offer of a 15% discount will barely scratch the surface. It’s a heartbreaking situation, and one can only hope that some benevolent soul will step in to ease the burden for the Tataruseanus, who are now stuck in a nightmarish limbo until the situation eases, both from a medical perspective and financial one.  

Sadly this is not an isolated case. A region such as the UAE enjoys good levels of healthcare and services, with a robust public sector, but for expatriates it all comes at a price; with maternity-related fees being one of the highest single healthcare-related outlays an expat couple can encounter whilst resident in the region. Many lower paid expatriate workers not covered by a company healthcare plan often simply cannot afford the insurance premiums and opt to forgo private insurance altogether in the hope they will not need medical care. It’s a risky move, particularly if you’re married because the possibility of pregnancy is an underlying reality and it’s a gamble for which the Tataruseanus are now paying a heavy price (and yes, we refer to strictly married couples in this context since engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage in the UAE is, of course, against Sharia law and the threat of prosecution and jail is a very real one if you don’t heed the warnings and turn up at hospital pregnant and unmarried).

For other expats with company healthcare included, a straightforward lack of planning may prove to be the chief obstacle to adequate insurance cover, should you fall pregnant, and is particularly relevant to new employees or those taking out new private insurance policies. Many new healthcare policies stipulate a given waiting period before maternity claims can be submitted, and these generally vary from 9 months up to 24 months. The devil really is in the detail and you should not only check that your current policy covers you for maternity costs (and to what extent exactly) but also the time frame for when cover kicks in because falling pregnant outside of this would almost certainly negate any claims. A chilling thought if you consider the plight of baby Maria.

So what are the costs exactly and what are the healthcare options available to women planning to give birth in the UAE? This depends largely on whether you opt to have your baby in the public or private sector, and the type of maternity package you choose. The popular choice is to opt for ‘all-inclusive’ packages for antenatal and delivery. An ‘antenatal’ package from 12 weeks generally includes around 10-12 visits to an OB/GYN, with anything from 2 scans and various standard tests included. The package may also include antenatal classes and it is also usually possible to opt for a package from 28 weeks only. Expect to factor in around AED3500-6000 for pre-natal costs.

A ‘delivery’ package will generally be for either a ‘normal’ birth (i.e. vaginal) or C-section delivery and can vary in price according to the type of room taken (private or shared). Normal birth packages range, on average, from around AED7000 to AED12000 depending on which sector you opt for, and the type of room. C-sections range from around AED10000 to 22000. Epidurals cost extra at around AED2500-3500. Blood transfusions also cost extra, as will circumcisions (around AED2000). NICU care is a further potential cost and as illustrated in the Tataruseanu case, can total around AED6000 per day, for as long as your baby requires help. Multiple babies will generally add another 50% of package fees (per baby) to total costs.

It is generally expected that most expats will opt for the private sector but some choose to go with a government-run hospital and not simply for financial reasons. Facilities such as the Latifah Hospital in Dubai are known for offering some of the best medical care and facilities in the region, particularly when it comes to critical care scenarios. These hospitals may lack the refinement of their private sector counterparts, but they generally offer similar standards of medical care just with a ‘no frills’ approach, and many clients feel they represent extremely good value for money.

There is one absolutely vital piece of documentation required, however, before you will be allowed to use government healthcare facilities; a Health Card. Pre-registering for a Health Card is essential, regardless of whether you have health coverage, as without it you will not be eligible to receive treatment at a government-run facility. This is particularly crucial should you require emergency medical assistance; for instance, if your baby is born very prematurely before 28 weeks (because only a few government-run hospitals have the facilities to handle babies born prior to this point).  A Health Card costs AED310.

The Latifah antenatal package costs AED5000 and consists of 10 visits and includes 2 scans, antenatal classes and standard antenatal tests. Their ‘delivery’ package starts from AED7000 for a 2-night stay in a shared room for a normal vaginal delivery and goes up to AED10000 for a C-section (epidural is extra). You can opt to stay in a private room for an extra AED2000.

The private sector offers a number of options, all with broadly similar fee structures, with the American Hospital in Dubai proving to be a firm favourite, particularly with western expats who are reassured that all physicians are North American Board certified (or equivalent). With an onsite NICU unit and world-class facilities (not to mention recently winning an award for the interior design of the new expansion project), it has a reputation for excellence amongst local and expatriate clients alike. Their ‘antenatal’ package costs AED5950 and includes 3 ultrasounds and all standard tests. A ‘normal’ delivery package in a private room costs AED11950 and a C-section package costs AED22950.

A third option is to have your regular community physician deliver your baby at a private hospital. You will pay delivery fees to the hospital and a separate fee to your physician (beware this can be cost-effective but it can end up costing more). The American Hospital, for example, charges AED8250 for a ‘normal’ delivery package with a community physician and AED15500 for a C-section delivery package.

All-in you can expect to pay anything from around AED10-15000 with a more basic package up to AED25000 for a more comprehensive selection. This is all before you’ve purchased a single bit of kit and caboodle, or even considered on-going medical expenses. If you’re not already covered, it really does pay to find a good insurance broker to assist you in finding a policy that is as comprehensive as possible to suit your budget and requirements. Even if you’re adamant that you are not quite ready for a baby just yet, it is prudent to consider the possibility for the future because those waiting periods can push your time frame out considerably, and you’ll be glad of the peace of mind should nature throw you a curve ball.

If you do decide to take out a new healthcare policy to include maternity cover (or are reviewing a current one), there are a few questions you should be asking:

  1. How many months will you have to wait before you can fall pregnant and claim maternity costs on the policy?
  2. What costs are included? Is there an excess or partial disbursement based on you paying a smaller ratio (e.g. 80/20%)
  3. Are pre-natal tests included?
  4. Which hospitals are included? Are they close to where you live? Are you happy with them?
  5. Is a C-section included?
  6. Are ‘extras’ included (e.g. blood transfusions, circumcision, consumables)?
  7. NICU care – is this included? To what extent?
  8. Are costs paid directly or to be reimbursed retrospectively?

Finally, once your baby is born, it is imperative that you arrange for the appropriate new born baby coverage. Many family policies will not automatically activate for your baby upon birth. It is often up to you to notify the insurance company within a specified time frame. Check the details, plan ahead and get the boring stuff out the way now because, as any parent will tell you, a baby can prove to be surprisingly expensive for such a tiny package. But holding that little bundle for the first time can only really be summed up in one word: priceless.


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