x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai health insurance compulsory from October

Every employee must be given health cover by June 2016, but staff will be responsible for insuring their spouses and dependants.

Essa Al Maidoor, director general of the Dubai Health Authority, which is making health insurance compulsory for all staff. Lee Hoagland / The National
Essa Al Maidoor, director general of the Dubai Health Authority, which is making health insurance compulsory for all staff. Lee Hoagland / The National

DUBAI // Companies in Dubai with 1,000 or more staff must provide health cover for them before the end of October.

The deadline for the first phase of the emirate’s long-awaited compulsory health insurance scheme was set by health chiefs on Tuesday.

Employers will be liable only for the cost of providing cover to their staff, who in turn will be responsible for insuring spouses, dependants and domestic workers by June 2016.

It is thought about two million are uninsured.

Visitors to Dubai will also be required to purchase health insurance when they arrive. Details on how that will be implemented will be outlined in the next few months.

“Our aim is to provide everyone in Dubai with access to essential health cover and to empower them by providing the right to choose their health provider within the private or public sector,” said Essa Al Maidoor, director general of Dubai Health Authority.

“They can start providing cover earlier, but these dates are deadlines they must meet,” said Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health funding at the authority.

The Government will be responsible for insuring Emiratis, but employers will be responsible for all their staff, including domestic and blue-collar workers.

Dr Al Yousuf said the DHA strongly encouraged companies to cover the spouses and dependants of their employees as well.

“It is a known fact that covering dependants of employees directly leads to greater employee satisfaction and better productivity,” he said.

In phase two of the scheme, companies with 100 to 999 employees will have until the end of July 2015 to comply. Companies with up to 100 staff have until the end of June 2016 to provide cover.

Insurance companies who want to take part in the scheme will have to obtain a health insurance permit.

“The health insurance mandate will provide a significant boost to the health insurance industry. It will attract investment in the healthcare sector and will generate healthy competition between providers as well as health facilities,” said Mr Al Maidoor.

“The mandate will benefit all the concerned stakeholders and, most importantly, patients.”

Dr Al Yousuf said insurance companies interested in providing the essential health benefits package to resident employees with monthly salaries below Dh4,000 will have to undergo further qualifying criteria to ascertain their ability to provide an affordable package.

The premium for this cover will range from Dh500 to Dh700 a year, he said.

For most employers the average cost of providing basic insurance is about 1.5 per cent of their payroll budget, said Dr Al Yousuf. They have the option to top up the basic package.

“For example, if an employer pays Dh10,000 per month in salaries, if he adds Dh150 per month, it covers the cost of health insurance.

“This is a minimum impact, adequate benefit plan. The scheme protects both employers and employees from unforeseen healthcare costs that can arise out of an illness or an emergency.”

The basic package covers emergency services, access to a GP, referral to specialists, tests and investigations, surgical procedures and maternity care.

“All the necessary health requirements will be covered by this package,” said Dr Al Yousuf.

“Therefore, once the mandatory health insurance is rolled out, people across the board will see the immediate benefits of the system.”

The process of obtaining a health insurance permit began in October and will be completed by January 2014, said Dr Al Yousuf.

The authority will then announce a list of the legitimate health insurance companies.

Those who already have the permit will start providing insurance within the next few weeks.

Failure by employers to provide insurance carries fines of between Dh500 and Dh150,000. Repeated breaches carry a maximum fine of Dh500,000.

The scheme is loosely based on that in Abu Dhabi, the only other emirate to have compulsory health insurance.

About 98 per cent of workers are covered in Abu Dhabi and Daman is the main insurer.

jbell@thenational.ae