Live the Dream – Dubai Start-Up Advice Series by Alpha Pro Partners
The government of Dubai introduced compulsory medical insurance for all organizations with employees and the process of applying for medical insurance is usually quite straightforward with policies provided within 24 hours. In this guide, we briefly touch upon what health insurance is and how to apply for it in Dubai. Why is it compulsory to provide medical insurance to all employees and workers? Dubai is on its way to having a world-class healthcare system that provides quality and access to care. Making health insurance compulsory assures everyone living in Dubai has access to medical treatments they need and the means to pay for their basic medical needs.
What is Health Insurance?
If you are fortunate enough to come from a country that has free healthcare services for all citizens, then mandatory health insurance is something new to you. However, in many other countries purchasing health insurance or having a company provide this for its employees is not uncommon. A health insurance policy is a contract between the insurance provider and the policyholder. It is also very rare to purchase insurance directly from a hospital or a medical center.
Medical System in the UAE
The UAE has a strongly developed healthcare infrastructure and the standard of health care is high. In 2018, the UAE was ranked in the top 10 most efficient healthcare systems in the world. Dubai is considered a medical tourism hub with 326,000 medical tourists visiting Dubai in 2016. A company registered in Dubai regardless of if they are mainland or free zone based must provide its employees with a health insurance plan. The most basic plan an employer can provide is called an Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) which is a minimum cover that was introduced by the DHA (Dubai Health Authority). There may be certain scenarios where an employee is employed by the company but they sponsor their families, maids, drivers, etc. In this scenario a company may not be obliged to sponsor the employee’s dependents, however, it would be the responsibility of the sponsor to arrange the health insurance for them. In many cases, their employers can arrange this for them but at an additional cost. Medical insurance policies can vary and can be highly customized. They range from having coverage from the American Hospital, one of Dubai’s most prestigious hospitals to coverage of basic hospitals and clinics. Policies also have specific terms and conditions which one should familiarize themselves with to understand what is claimable and what is not. Co-insurance – This is the fixed amount the policyholder is required to contribute regardless of the cost of treatment. This can range from a fee of AED 50 to 20% of the treatment for example. This is a means for the insurance company to limit its liability of insurance claims.
Major providers and Brokers
There are many reputable insurance providers in the UAE, some of the most popular include AXA, Takaful Emarat, Daman, and Metlife to name a few. Although it is possible to go directly to insurance companies for a quote, it is always easier to go via a broker to find the best policy at the best price for you. Examples of popular insurance brokers include Bayzat and Nasco.
Islamic Insurance vs Conventional
Takaful is the term used to describe Islamic insurance and is defined as shared responsibility or joint guarantee. Essentially there are subtle differences in the policyholder of the insurance policy whether it is conventional or Islamic as the local regulations would ensure both are compliant with UAE regulations. Takaful insurance differs from conventional insurance as it operates more like a cooperative where a group of individuals contributes a certain amount of money to compensate any member of the group in the event of a claim. A joint Takaful is managed by the operator on behalf of its members. Companies offering these plans include Takaful Emarat, Salama and Al Hilal Takaful.
Other things to consider when choosing health insurance
- Packages – there are numerous types of packages and coverage available which vary from the most prestigious hospitals to worldwide coverage. Ensuring the relevant coverage and the right prices can be tricky for an entrepreneur and hence why we encourage them to contact a broker in this instance. Another point to consider is that although you may choose insurance to cover the UAE, not all hospitals and clinics will be covered via automatic billing which means that an employee may have to pay and claim back from the insurance provider if taking treatment from an out of scope institution.
- Co-insurance – This is the fixed amount the policyholder is required to contribute regardless of the cost of treatment. This can range from a fee of AED 50 to 20% of the treatment for example. This is a means for the insurance company to limit its liability of insurance claims.
- Pre-existing conditions – when applying for medical insurance it is important that all policyholders are transparent with disclosing their pre-existing conditions. In most cases this may increase the premium, however, if they have to get treatment for a pre-existing condition and they have not disclosed this from the start, they may face large medical bills as a result. International coverage: having international coverage can be important not only because most employees in the UAE are expats but also because they may be required to travel to other countries as part of their duties. Insurers who also operate internationally are also more reputable and safe as they operate in multiple markets.
Medical insurance issuance
Once you have provided the medical insurance to your employees, they should receive an electronic or physical medical card which is also linked to the employee’s Emirates ID card. The broker who has provided you with the medical insurance should also provide information on the coverage of hospitals and clinics, the limits of the policy, and what is claimable. Some insurance providers also have mobile apps to provide all of this information for the employee.
This article is written in general terms and therefore cannot be relied on to cover specific situations; application of the principles set out will depend upon the particular circumstances involved and we recommend that you obtain professional advice before acting or refraining from acting on any of its contents.