x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Guidelines for new health system unclear, say doctors

Doctors have expressed concern about the new health funding system which comes into force in Dubai on Thursday.

Dubai // Doctors have expressed concern about the new health funding system which comes into force in Dubai on Thursday, saying they do not have enough details about the scheme. From today, patients need to register with outpatient clinics, who will receive a set fee from the Government to offer free basic health care. Employers will pay for the cost of the registration. But doctors say they do not have enough information from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to know what they should be doing in preparation or what services they need to offer.

Dr Sanjay Paithankar, who runs 10 clinics in the UAE, said the health authority needed to make clear what was included in basic health cover. According to the DHA, cover will differ from clinic to clinic depending on the patients enrolled - what may be a basic requirement to one patient may be completely unnecessary for another. Dr Paithankar said many employers were unhappy with the new rules because they would now pay more to the DHA than they previously paid to an insurance company for a basic package.

"Employers always want to save money," he said. "They will make their employees register with the cheapest clinic, regardless of location, even if the employers do not actually have to pay for treatment." "Before the DHA activities, the same health cover was provided by insurance companies for as low as Dh250 [US$68] to Dh400 per year. "The patients were happy, the workers were happy and the Government was happy. Now if they have to pay closer to Dh1,000, no one is going to be happy."

Dr Abid Ali Shah, a doctor at the Iranian Hospital in Jumeirah, one of the registered clinics on the list, said he would like more information on the scheme. "The main problem we are facing is the DHA has not announced all the details," he said. "We need to know how much the DHA will pay us and what they expect us to do." Each outpatient clinic will receive a risk-adjusted payment, according to age and sex, for every patient they have enrolled, in exchange for offering the basic healthcare services.

The money for these payments will come from the employers, who are expected to pay between Dh500 and Dh800 each year to the DHA as a health benefits contribution. The clinics will receive management and administration services from a Health Management Company, which will help them relay data to the DHA so the payment amounts can be monitored and adjusted if necessary. A list of outpatient clinics was published on the DHA website last month and included more than 250 around the emirate.

Another substantial change introduced by the DHA is the need for all medical professionals to re-apply for their medical licence and undertake further education or training if necessary. In a statement last month, the DHA said the announcement about the health benefits contribution would be finalised "in the very near future" and that it was a "phased introduction". A lot of information has also appeared on their website, www.dha.gov.ae, including details of requirements of outpatient clinics and a service coverage guide for doctors.

munderwood@thenational.ae