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Wed 26 Oct 2011 10:18 AM

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Dubai to take second run at healthcare for all

Gulf emirate sees rollout of mandatory medical insurance starting in 2012, says official

Dubai to take second run at healthcare for all
Two-thirds of low-income workers in Dubai do not have medical cover, a study found

Dubai’s stalled scheme to offer medical insurance to every
employee in the emirate is under review and may be implemented as early as next
year, a senior healthcare official said Tuesday.

The first stages of the revised plan, which would require
every company to offer basic healthcare cover to its staff, could be rolled out
in 2012, three years after its original launch date.

“The idea is that private health insurance in Dubai will be
mandatory so every employer will have to provide their employees with a health
insurance cover,” said Dr Yousuf Haider, director of healthcare department at Dubai
Health Authority.

Asked if the first stages of the scheme could be in place in
2012, Dr Haider said: “Yes.”

Dubai first unveiled plans for mandatory health insurance in
2008, with a scheme that required companies to pay between AED500 and AED800 to
the government annually for each employee.

The plan was designed to offer primary healthcare,
non-emergency inpatient care and some prescription drugs, while stopping short
of writing a blank cheque for all medical services.

Dubai suspended the scheme in 2009 after the onset of the
global financial crisis and no new timeline was established. The new-look plan
proposes cutting out the government as middleman and asking companies to buy
private health insurance directly for their staff, said Dr Haider.

“The previous model was more like a social insurance model
so there was a major role for the government in centrally collecting the funds
and distributing the funds to clinics. This has been changed into more of a
private health insurance model with a strong regulator,” he said.

“The mandatory component is what we call the basic benefit
package; this will ensure that people do not get into financial difficultly as
a result of not having insurance.”

The burden of providing care to uninsured residents has been
a key concern for many Gulf states. Saudi Arabia in 2009 rolled out mandatory
health insurance for expatriates and nationals, linking proof of healthcare
insurance to the renewal of workers’ visas.   

Abu Dhabi has required companies and sponsors to provide medical
insurance for staff and family members since 2006, in a bid to reduce the cost
of medical care to the government.  

A government survey in 2010 found some 75 percent of Indian,
other Asians and Arab expat workers in Dubai had no health insurance and
struggled to access basic medical care.

Only 23 percent of the bottom fifth of wage-earners – who
earned an average of AED2,273 a month – had health insurance, the Dubai
Household Health Survey showed.

Haider said Dubai companies worst-hit by the global crisis, or those with significant
numbers of employees, would be given longer to comply with health insurance rules.

“This is
going to be rolled out gradually. Those who have had more impact [from the
economic downturn] will come at the end,” he said.

“We are
looking at a total roll-out period of at least two to three years. It has been
designed with the economy in mind so that it adds to the economy and doesn’t
become a burden…. when the premium is clearly affordable the impact is minimal.”

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charles 8 years ago

it is pretty appalling to know that this is still being "discussed" 3 years after it was first mooted and well after Abu Dhabi led the way in thinking of the health of its residents.

Dorothy Leiber 8 years ago

There are several solutions that would take the onus from the employer to pay for employee health insurance. It is true that no person should be left out of being provided basic health care. What about people who find themselves without employment and have no coverage? It would be my humble suggestion that a small amount could be collected from every dollar spent. For example, a 5 cent surcharge on every dollar spent regardless what the item purchased. I am sure no one would mind that 5 cents if they knew they would be covered in a medical situation. It would mean a bit of extra bookwork for merchants, but in the long run they would not be the ones that would have to pay for their employees. Also the government would have an exact view on collection and allocate the spending.

I apologize for my ignorance of your monetary denominations.

Just a suggestion to help ease the burden of who and how these health premiums would be paid, and it would only take one month to implement.