Mandatory insurance needed soon - Dubai health boss

Head of health authority says stalled health insurance scheme must be reintroduced
(Image for illustrative purposes).
By Courtney Trenwith
Mon 18 Feb 2013 03:53 PM

The director general of Dubai Health Authority wants the emirate's stalled mandatory health insurance scheme to be introduced “soon”.

The most senior health authority in Dubai, Essa Al Maidoor told Arabian Business that employers had a role to play in ensuring the health of workers and providing insurance was “a basic need”.

“[The employer] wants the best and most productivity from [employees and] this is [a] basic need, [a] basic service he should give to them,” Al Maidoor said in an exclusive interview with Arabian Business.

It has been five years since the emirate first unveiled plans for employers to pay the government between AED500 (US$136) and AED800 per employee each year to offset the cost of primary healthcare, non-emergency inpatient care and some prescription drugs.

However the plan was suspended in 2009 after the onset of the global financial crisis.

A new proposal in 2011 cut out the government and required companies to directly buy private health insurance for their staff. Announcing the idea in 2011, Dubai Health Authority director of healthcare Dr Haidar Saeed Al Yousuf told Arabian Business it could be introduced in 2012 - but still no scheme exists.

Al Maidoor said he still hoped mandatory health insurance would be introduced for all employees. “I hope to see it soon,” he said. “It’s as a mechanism... through [which] you maintain and sustain the health service in the best, efficient way. That brings up the service.

“Also people feel secure when you have the insurance in your pocket. Hopefully you don’t need it but you always feel safe that you have a [health care] card.

“To see it comprehensive, that’s how we can maintain the best standard.”

Al Maidoor said ensuring the quality of regulation also was vital for Dubai residents and medical tourists to feel comfortable using the emirate’s healthcare system.

“How do you feel safe going to even a dentist [unless] you know that he is being tested, his qualification being checked by somebody reliable and that’s why he’s licensed,” he said.

“If you feel the premise is checked - checked continuously actually – [and] the equipment is correct, all this gives you the feeling of security.

“[Patients] should feel that somebody is regulating it but in a way that you leave the freedom of movement [within the sector]. Not to be too tight, not to be too loose.”

Al Maidoor said employers in Dubai were increasingly offering health-related benefits in the workplace to entice new employees, such as a gym and healthy food options.

“These are the things which encourage the employee to produce more and better. These are practices that I think worldwide a lot of companies have adopted,” Al Maidoor said.

“Everybody pays salaries but the difference is they have a gym, wow there’s something different ... you feel somebody’s caring about you.”

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