Do you live in Dubai or Abu Dhabi? If so, you are subject to having mandatory health insurance as required by these two Emirates, but which in turn gives you access to care through their various public and private medical facilities. However, the local coverage is not always sufficient to cope with the often very high cost of healthcare, and so many expats combine it with international health insurance.
Health insurance for expats in the UAE
How does the healthcare system work in the UAE?
There is no social security system as such in the country, but its citizens have free access to its public health facilities. Foreign residents can also seek medical treatment if they have a health card issued by the local ministry, but must still pay their own fees. However, these are lower than those charged by the country's many private health institutions, where patients, whether nationals or expats, have to pay the full cost of their care if they do not have personal insurance.
In order to balance access to the Emirati health system, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have introduced mandatory health insurance. In the two Emirates, this obligation leans more heavily on employers, who are required to finance private health insurance for all their employees by providing them with basic medical coverage that includes a minimum benefits package set by law (Minimum Health Coverage).
This employer-sponsored insurance must also cover the dependants of employees working in Abu Dhabi. Although this is not a provision in force in Dubai, it does not relieve the beneficiaries of their insurance obligation, which they must then take out on a personal basis, as is also the case for self-employed persons residing in the UAE.
How to choose health insurance in the UAE?
Whether taken out by the employer or as an individual, health insurance in the UAE must be obtained from an approved local health insurance company.
The minimum benefits package must cover hospitalisation, emergencies, routine medicine (general practitioner and specialist), maternity, tests, and prescribed exams. Optical and dental coverage is not mandatory.
Moreover, there may also be some deductibles (e.g., for hospitalisation, consultations or maternity) as well as waiting periods for treatment of pre-existing conditions. The choice of hospitals can also be limited.
To overcome the disadvantages of the basic local insurance, many expats in the UAE choose to supplement it with a more comprehensive international health insurance policy.