Dubai looks at compulsory minimum health insurance for expats

Posted on Oct 20, 2010

by Ray Clancy on July 13, 2010

The government in Dubai is considering a new minimum level of health insurance for expats as the number of uninsured foreign nationals grows.

The true extent of the problem has been revealed by the emirate’s first ever major health survey of 5,000 residents of which half were expats. The results of the survey by the Dubai Health Authority will now be analysed fully over the next 18 months but initial analysis shows there is concern about the number of expats without health insurance.

‘The objective of the survey is to understand the needs of Dubai’s nationals, residents and visitors so the DHA can meet these needs by tailoring our policies to suit the requirements of the people of Dubai,’ said Laila Al Jassmi, chief executive officer of Health Policy and Strategy Sector at the DHA.

‘It will help us identify and thus address priority healthcare issues and develop effective, long-term solutions to address Dubai’s major healthcare concerns. This includes a range of issues from improving access to health care services, better implementation of policies to tackling chronic healthcare issues such as diabetes,’ explained Dr. Eldaw Abdalla Suliman, head of research and performance management.

According to the survey, three quarters of Indians, other Asians and Arab expatriates in Dubai have no health insurance. The survey also showed that less than one-quarter, 23%, of the bottom fifth of wage earners, who earn an average of AED2,273 (USD619) a month, had health insurance coverage.

‘The survey has shown there is quite a large percentage of people not covered by health insurance. People need at least a minimum coverage,’ added Al Jassmi.

Dubai has looked at introducing a health levy on businesses paid per employee to provide universal healthcare, but nothing has come of these proposals. The emirate is also considering laws to make health insurance mandatory, as is the case in neighbouring Abu Dhabi.

The survey asked detailed questions covering a wide range of healthcare issues including household expenditure on health, health coverage, overseas healthcare, fertility and childhood mortality. Questions relating to overall physical health including daily physical activity,  health service coverage and chronic conditions including whether respondents have experienced symptoms for diseases such as arthritis, blood cholesterol, blood lipids, diabetes, insulin resistance, asthma, blood clots, stroke,  and brain hemorrhage.

The questionnaire also enquired whether the respondents have visited a healthcare practitioner for the same symptoms, medical  tests they have undertaken over the last 12 months as well as medications they are currently taking. It also included a series of questions related to mental health and road traffic injuries.

The survey also obtained detailed responses related to hospitalization during the last 12 months, reason for hospitalization, any operation undertaken during that period, and satisfaction level with the healthcare services provided.