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UAE companies to provide mandatory health insurance for all under draft law

People and companies who do not provide health insurance to their employees face fines under a draft federal health insurance law.

A draft federal law will ensure health insurance for all employees in the country, with employers risking minimum fines of Dh10,000 for each uncovered worker.

And the draft states that any sponsor who tries to charge an employee for providing them with health insurance can be fined up to Dh30,000, reports Al Ittihad, the Arabic-language sister paper to The National.

A federal authority will be established to oversee health cover, and to transfer the employee's benefits when they move from one provider to another.

As it stands, only Abu Dhabi has mandatory insurance, with 98 per cent of its workers covered.

Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health funding at Dubai Health Authority, welcomed the draft, saying it would "make sure weaker members of society are protected".

"The principles of a mandatory health insurance law means it has to have teeth," Dr Al Yousuf  said. "Therefore, the fine should be higher than the cost of insuring a worker."

The draft says sponsors must submit proof of cover for each worker electronically to relevant authorities. Any person who gives incorrect details for a health insurance service or benefit will be fined Dh10,000 to Dh30,000.

Penalties of between Dh100,000 and Dh500,000 will be imposed on any insurance company or healthcare provider practising without a licence from the relevant health authority.

Failure to keep workers' details confidential will mean a fine of Dh50,000 to Dh200,000.

The law has been welcomed by members of the medical sector.

"It's definitely a good idea," said one Abu Dhabi healthcare worker.

"So many people are coming without health insurance to our hospital but we are helpless to help them, especially labourers. It's very sad.

"Hopefully this will mean more people have health insurance. It's important that people have health insurance.

"People in the UAE come here to earn money and they are working for a company, so the company should take care of them."

Abu Dhabi pharmacist Dr Hussein Haddad agreed.

"Here in the UAE the medical treatment is very expensive, and procedures and medicine compared with other countries is expensive," Dr Haddad said.

"Many employees are on low salaries so they cannot afford any treatment for themselves."

Dr Nisar Ahmed, insurance manager at Abu Dhabi's Burjeel Hospital, said health insurance was a necessity that any employer should provide.

"It's just asking that they are physically fit and taken care of," Dr Ahmed said, adding that health care in the UAE was "quite expensive now".

"An average person, he will not be able to afford one inpatient admission of even two days.

"Employers can have the security that if their employees are taken care of they will have more productivity and more efficiency in their work."

Other parts of the draft law include rules to ensure anyone who provides proof of coverage will receive treatment, regardless of whether they attend a centre listed with their insurer.

Coverage must be continued in the event of a dispute between insurer and healthcare provider, and insurance companies will be banned from running healthcare centres and vice versa. 

jbell@thenational.ae
ecleland@thenational.ae

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