The long-anticipated health insurance law of Dubai has been approved. From next year, health insurance will be mandatory for all citizens, residents and visitors in Dubai.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved the Health Insurance Law, which stipulates rules and regulations for all parties involved in provision and implementation of health insurance in the emirate.
The fundamental basis of the law is to ensure that every national, resident and visitor in Dubai has essential health insurance coverage and access to essential health services.
“The law is fundamental to ensure smooth delivery of essential health insurance to everyone living in the emirate, which roughly means over three million people, including nationals and residents with Dubai visas,” said Issa Al Maidoor, Director General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
“It will not be possible to be in the emirate without health insurance. Residents will not get a visa without health insurance,” he added.
The law stipulates the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved in the provision and implementation of health insurance.
While the government will be responsible for health insurance of UAE national, employers will be responsible for all their employees. Domestic workers will not be excluded from this scheme, the DHA emphasised.
Spouses of residents in Dubai must be insured by the sponsor of the spouse and not by the employer of the sponsor. Visitors to Dubai will get health insurance upon entering the country. Two million people are currently not insured, according to DHA estimates.
“We would like to thank Sheikh Mohammed and we are committed to fulfill his vision and ensure that every individual in Dubai has access to essential health coverage. Health insurance is a form of security and it is important for every individual to know that if he needs access to healthcare, it is easily available,” said Al Maidoor.
Essential health coverage means insurance that ensures access to basic healthcare. At the same time, it should not put a burden on the employer, explained Haidar Al Yousuf, Director of Health Funding at the DHA.
Although emergency and surgical services and maternity care will be included in the basic package, dentistry will not be on the list of essential health care services.
“It is a smartly designed package, providing for basic services. Obviously, it does not include luxury services like cosmetic treatment. It provides the patient with basic needs,” Al Yousuf said.
Preventive health care, which has been the blind spot of health insurance, is not part of the basic package, but this is likely to change with the introduction of this law.
“We definitely encourage more and more preventive care to be provided by insurance companies. As the insurance market becomes more mature, companies are expected to stay with insurance companies longer. Insurance companies may then feel comfortable to provide preventive benefits,” said Al Yousuf.
Insurance companies will be permitted to offer competitive packages, with an expected average price tag of Dh600. Companies may also offer varying co-payment possibilities. However, there is a minimum requirement for the co-payment cap, explains Al Yousuf.
“The co-payment cap is the maximum amount that the patient pays out of the pocket. Anything above this amount should be paid by the insurance company. The minimum requirements of this cap have been made clear to the insurance companies. Currently, there are more than 40 insurance companies approved by the DHA, and the details of the basic packages have already been communicated with these companies. They will be announcing their packages soon,” the DHA said.
Sustainable health care
The health insurance law rests on two pillars. Apart from providing residents with access to basic healthcare, it develops an effective and sustainable health financing system, says the DHA .
“Depending on the insurance companies’ policies, health care will be available at public as well as private hospitals. Public hospitals will act as private hospitals in providing health care to insured patients. The idea is that patients are not bound by financial considerations when selecting the health care of their choice. They will be able to select the services they find most attractive,” explained Al Yousuf.
“We looked at some of the worlds’ best practices and some regionally applied systems. Of course we want the best health care system. What is unique about this law is that it does not only provide access to health care services, but it also ensures quality of these services.
“All parties will be encouraged to perform slightly better, and the results of this will be published. This transparency will guarantee that the focus of health care is on quality, and not only on price,” he added.
The law will go into effect 60 days after signing of the law, but the implementation is expected to be done over a period of two and a half years in phases. All parties will be expected to comply with the law within a year.
Though details of insurance responsibilities are to be announced to the public soon, some highlights were announced by the DHA on Tuesday.
For residents in Dubai, the law stipulates the responsibility of the employer to provide with the minimum of a basic health insurance package based on their current health insurance policy.
In doing so, the company must bear the full costs of the procedure and these costs may not be deducted from the beneficiaries. It is expected that of the total amount spent on salaries, 1.5 per cent will be spent on the insurance scheme providing the basic health insurance coverage, explained Al Yousuf.
As the insurance coverage is linked to residency, companies are obliged to show sufficient evidence of insurance coverage when residence visa are to be renewed.
The insurance contract may not always cover the same period as the residency period. If it happens that due to this the employee is not covered by health insurance and medical treatment is required, the company must bear the full costs of the healthcare services provided.
UAE nationals will receive insurance cards to replace the existing Dubai Health Authority (DHA) health cards that provide coverage for healthcare services and preventive care. “They will continue to have access to all current healthcare services provided by the DHA and various private healthcare providers,” said Al Yousuf.
On entering Dubai, the visitor will be required to purchase health insurance. “The costs of this health insurance package will be very low, covering only emergency cases,” said Al Yousuf.
The costs of this health insurance coverage will be included in the costs of a visa, explained Al Maidoor. “We do not want to duplicate the procedure, we want to simplify it,” he said.
Violators of the Health Insurance Law will be fined a minimum of Dh500 and a maximum of Dh150,000. If the violator repeats the violation in the same year, the fine will be doubled, although the fine may not exceed Dh50,000. In addition to the fine, the DHA may issue a warning and suspend the company’s health insurance activities within the emirate for not more than two years, or cancel the health insurance permit. The violation may also result in civil or criminal cases.