Will a healthcare professional shortage influence medical insurance in Dubai?
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Will a healthcare professional shortage influence medical insurance in Dubai?

The UAE, more specifically Dubai, has been consistently growing and establishing itself as the leader in regional health care. There is a potential problem, however, that could lead to increased healthcare costs and therefore higher individual medical insurance premiums in Dubai. Read on to learn more.

Healthcare in the UAE during the first quarter of 2015
The first quarter of 2015 has been an interesting one when it comes to health care in the Emirates. With the long-anticipated opening of the Cleveland Medical Center in Abu Dhabi in March - starting with the eye clinic opening in March 2015, with other clinics following in the ensuing weeks - to the announcement that Dubai’s Landmark Hospitality group will open 20 iCARE clinics in the next three years. These two announcements alone highlight a strong trend of improving health care options and availability in the region.

Combine this with newly announced treatment figures for the DHA (Dubai Health Authority), which said it treated over 1 million people in their hospitals in 2014, and the projected treatment of 500,000 medical tourists a year in Dubai - by 2020 - (according to an article written by the National in 2014) and it is clear to see that not only are these extra hospital beds and clinics needed, but demand will continue to rise. In fact, a piece in the National published in January 2015 found that demand for health care will rise by 240% in the next 20 years

The problem with this increase in demand is that Dubai, and indeed the whole UAE, will need more medical professionals. In the most recent report published by Colliers International, on healthcare in Dubai, it was found that the number of physicians in Dubai (as of the end of 2014) was 2.7 per 1,000 people, and the number of nurses is 5.5 per 1,000 people. While the ratio of physicians is roughly the same as in many developed nations (e.g., the UK and the USA both have a doctor-patient ratio of around 2.7-3.0 per 1,000 people) , the number of nurses in Dubai is considerably lower than many developed nations. (e.g, France has a ratio of roughly 8.0 nurses per 1,000 people, the US has a ratio of around 10.0 per 1,000 people).

These numbers indicate that Dubai is lagging behind other countries when it comes to health care providers, which when combined with population growth rates and ageing population, as well as increased treatment availability, you see that demand is set to increase exponentially.

What does this mean for individual medical insurance plans in Dubai?
What does this increase in demand mean for health insurance in Dubai? Colin Ward, Corporate Sales Director at UMI explained, “With the recent DHA reform, Dubai has made health insurance compulsory - all sponsors must provide health insurance for their staff to certain minimum levels set out by the DHA. This is a fundamental market shift from what we had before, which was predominantly senior expatriates being provided with high level health insurance plans.

What this means is that through 2015 and beyond, more and more people will have access to health insurance. This will put pressure on health care providers and begin to cause waiting times for outpatient treatment, which in Dubai is unprecedented. It may also start to put even more pressure on inpatient treatments where major surgeries are required. It is well published in the local media in Dubai that there is a shortage of medical professionals in the region.”

He continued, “The impact of these waiting times and shortages of medical professionals will, in my view, lead to increased cost of treatment in the region. The resulting effect may be a dramatic increase in individual medical insurance premiums. To counter this however, we expect to see product innovations among health insurers in Dubai, such as the greater use of restricted direct billing networks or the application of Co-Insurance as a way of cost sharing with employees. What is also very welcome are the initiatives set out by the DHA to combat fraud and abuse within the healthcare system.”

UMI is keen to see what changes Dubai will enact in the near future to rectify the impending shortfall of trained medical professionals, and the subsequent impact it will have on individual medical insurance. One thing's for sure, the DHA reforms highlight a need for this type of insurance.

With the future holding a possible shortage of medical professionals in the region, it is now becoming more important than ever to have a comprehensive individual medical insurance policy. If you, or your company, is looking for a health insurance solution, visit our website today to learn more about the plans we offer.


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