Dubai, UAE: The medical industry has roundly applauded a plan to provide every employee in the emirate with compulsory health insurance.
The Health Insurance Law, passed this week by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, means every employer must provide workers with a basic healthcare package.
“I think the insurance scheme is a giant leap forward for the country,” said David Hadley, chief executive of health provider Mediclinic Middle East. “It is going to give greater access to affordable health care for more people.”
Mr Hadley said the surge in the number of people who would now have access to health care would mean greater investment in the industry.
“Mandatory health insurance is going to raise the number of people who have access to health facilities. This, in turn, will encourage more people to invest in healthcare facilities,” he said.
Dr Gulam Naroo, a senior specialist in emergency treatment at Rashid Hospital’s trauma centre in Dubai, said health insurance was a necessity that any employer should provide.
“This is very, very important, especially in providing care to the lower-paid members of society who can not afford health care,” Dr Naroo said.
“Many, many times I have had patients come in with an emergency and they ask to be stabilised, but then they do not come back for treatment because they cannot afford follow-up care and treatment.
“Where they go, I do not know. I think many go back to their home country to get care there. This will help a lot of people.”
The Pakistani doctor said the insurance scheme could save lives as it would stop the delay in people seeking diagnosis or treatment as they struggled to raise the money.
The insurance scheme, which will be rolled out in phases until 2016, will mean 3 million people in the emirate will be covered. As it stands, only 1 million have health insurance.
Pesha Nayak, a medical adviser to the board of directors at the American Hospital in Dubai, said the scheme would close the gap between the rich and the poor in the emirate.
“It is a very, very good idea,” Dr Nayak said. “It is a very positive thing.”
Dr Khalil Rehman, a neonatal specialist at Welcare Hospital, said despite companies having to bear a financial hit, the scheme was a positive one, especially for blue-collar workers.
“We know that the bulk of these workers get paid the minimum. They live in camps. They can not afford health care,” Dr Rehman said.
The insurance scheme will begin to be rolled out early next year and will cover tourists in case of an emergency.
“This is about bringing happiness and satisfaction to everyone in the community,” said Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health funding at the Dubai Health Authority.
Salim Al Maamary, chief executive of Al Tadawi Medical Centre, said it was an extremely important decision.
“We have seen the financial impact of individuals that have no insurance coverage, which tends to leave them with psychological stress in addition to their health issues,” Mr Al Maamary said.
Employers will bear the cost and responsibility for enrolling their employees in the scheme.
“It will be essential for employers to be well informed about the new processes and costs involved in this mandate,” said Ashok Sardana, managing director of the Continental Group.
Failure to comply with the law carries a minimum fine of Dh500 and a maximum of Dh150,000. Repeated breaches carry a maximum Dh500,000 fine.
© The NationalNov 2013