x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Row over medical tariff rise in Dubai resolved

Mediclinic Middle East has reached an agreement with medical insurers, ending weeks of uncertainty for patients and policy-holders.

A row between medical insurers and a leading healthcare provider, which threatened to force thousands of patients to pay their own hospital bills, has been resolved.

Mediclinic Middle East, which operates 10 hospitals and clinics in Dubai, had warned patients they could have to pay for their care directly and seek reimbursement from their insurers after a sharp rise in costs.

It also warned insurance providers it would need to raise tariffs by 6 per cent this year to keep up with those costs.

Most insurance companies had agreed to the rise but several, including Enaya, the Dubai government healthcare scheme that insures about 100,000 public-sector staff, and Oman Insurance refused to consent to the increase, Mediclinic said.

Now an agreement has been reached but it is not known if the tariffs have been changed.

“An agreement has been reached with all insurance providers, which means that there will be no change to patients’ insurance coverage or direct-billing facilities at any Mediclinic Middle East hospital or clinic,” said David Hadley, the chief executive of Mediclinic Middle East.

The dispute underscores growing tension between insurers and hospitals over rising healthcare costs.

Outpatient medical inflation has been running at an average of 26 per cent a year since 2007, according to Daman, one of the health insurance companies involved in the dispute with Mediclinic.

One of the biggest contributors has been the price of drugs.

An epidemic of lifestyle conditions such as diabetes and obesity have added to costs incurred by insurers.

Meanwhile salaries for doctors and nurses are also on the rise as more hospitals and clinics compete for staff across the country.

Daman, which is based in Abu Dhabi and insures more than 2 million people throughout the Emirates, has expanded its investigations unit responsible for spotting fake claims in a bid to control runaway costs.

“We at Daman are pleased to have reached an agreement with Mediclinic Middle East for the remainder of 2013,” said Dr Jad Aoun, chief medical officer at the insurer.

“Generally speaking, when negotiating a contract with a medical service provider we look at different factors that ensure the responsible utilisation of our members’ funds and that the premiums rates remain controlled.”

On Monday the UAE Government announced retail prices of more than 6,600 different medicines will be cut by up to 40 per cent in the next three months.

The cuts will be achieved by a new system to unify the cost of imported medicines in US dollars, to prevent monopolies and to reduce the profit margins of sales agents and pharmacies.

“Food and medicine are of extreme importance. It is essential to make medicine affordable for all,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister, tweeted on Monday after a Cabinet meeting at which the changes were approved.

scronin@thenational.ae

tarnold@thenational.ae