x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Take care with insurance forms

One man's "horrible situation" is a reminder that filling out insurance forms requires care and attention

Anas Gharra displays his health Insurance card. After trouble over his medical coverage he finally
Anas Gharra displays his health Insurance card. After trouble over his medical coverage he finally "got lucky,' he says. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // From his hospital bed and in "excruciating pain," Anas Gharra called his medical insurance company - and was told he was not covered. His "horrible situation" is an example of what can go wrong with medical insurance.

Mr Gharra, 32, was admitted to MedCare Hospital's Jumeirah facility in Dubai in November 2010 with severe abdominal pain.

He was diagnosed with acute gallbladder inflammation, related to multiple gallstones. Removal of the gallbladder was inevitable.

Then the hospital asked Mr Gharra's insurance provider, Globemed Gulf FZ-LLC and Arab Orient Insurance Company, for approval.

"I was in the emergency room in my bed and they refused to cover me. I had to call them myself, while I was in excruciating pain, to ask why," he said. "They said it was a pre-existing condition and as I had failed to declare it earlier, they would not cover me."

Mr Gharra agreed that the gallstones were a pre-existing condition, but said when they were discovered by ultrasound, doctors had dismissed them as trivial.

"My doctor said it wasn't causing any problems, four years ago, and he advised me to leave it. When I filled out my insurance application, there was no mention of specific medical history details and only one question on whether or not I had any known medical conditions. So I forgot about it.

"And when I needed insurance, they refused," he said. "It was a horrible situation."

Although he was in no condition to leave the hospital, Mr Gharra paid Dh7,000 for his two-night stay and left, against the advice of his doctors. He spent a week finding a more affordable place to perform the estimated Dh25,000 surgery.

"The insurance deserted me. I went back to the Abu Dhabi hospital where I used to work in and they did it free of charge. I got lucky," he said.

Health insurance, said Mr Gharra, is supposed to be a safety net one can rely on when in need. "If my insurance doesn't cover me for life threatening-surgeries or cover my wife when she is sick, then what is it good for?"