x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Private insurers must show creativity and innovation

Private health-insurance companies must provide innovative products and complement a compulsory Government-backed scheme.

Dubai // Private health-insurance companies must provide innovative products and complement a compulsory Government-backed scheme if they are to survive its introduction, an industry figure said yesterday. Beginning in January, the Government will provide everyone in Dubai with basic health care, which will be funded by contributions from employers. David Youssef, former managing director of Goodhealth Insurance, said insurance companies now need to focus on top-up plans and benefit plans if they are to survive the changing market and cope with the loss in business.

"There is still a lot of products that need to be sold," he said. Mr Youssef, who has been in the Middle East health-insurance industry for 14 years, used the example of the National outlined how the new system could still work for insurers in Dubai. Under the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) programme, every employer and sponsor will contribute Dh500 to Dh800 a year for each employee. Money will then be passed by the government to the clinic where employees are registered.

Insurance companies will lose the business from basic packages but if they are prepared to complement the system, it can work, Mr Youssef said. Insurance companies were originally consulted about acting as collecting agents for the Government, he said. They would have been responsible for collecting the fees from employers and handing them to the DHA. However, he said, the majority declined and insurance companies are now not permitted to handle any financial aspects of the system.

Hussain Hadi, editor of Dubai-based Policy Magazine, said insurers want more information, such as the exact amount of the health-benefit contribution, before deciding what to do next. They also want to know more about what is covered by the Government. Details released by the DHA so far include outpatient primary care consultations, outpatient lab tests, diagnostic radiology including X-rays and some immunisations.

Mr Hadi said: "Insurers need to be clear of the health-benefits contribution when they are designing their products to complement the system. They would like to know what is and is not covered." The DHA has stressed that this is "phased introduction" and many of the finer points may take time to come into force. A spokesman said: "The DHA will be making a full announcement of the health-benefits contribution in the very near future. Given the extent of the engagement and consultation programme it has undertaken over the past 18 months, the DHA understands that all stakeholders will need time to implement the requirements of the new health-funding system. Consequently the DHA will be doing a phased introduction of the system and full details will be issued shortly."

More information is available at the DHA webside (www.dha.gov.ae). munderwood@thenational.ae