Dubai, UAE: Insurance companies do not offer the basic health package costing Dh600 to individuals as it is not profitable to cover one person separately, insurance company representatives said.
One sales executive with a large insurance company based in Dubai said she gets many calls from individuals for insurance. "We [only] offer [basic coverage] for blue collar workers with companies that have 1,000 employees," she said.
The representative said her insurance company’s cheapest basic plan for individuals costs Dh2,125. "For a person who is 36 years old, this will cover up to Dh50,000," she said.
Under a new law all Dubai residents should have medical coverage within the next two years. Only one million residents presently have medical insurance, leaving two million others who have to pay for their treatment out of their pocket. Spouses who have their partners under their sponsorship will have to foot the bill for the cover.
Dr Haider Al Yousuf, Director, Health Funding, Dubai Health Authority ( DHA ), had said earlier that it was the responsibility of companies to provide health care for their expatriate employees.
He had said the Dh600 health insurance package will provide basic health services and surgeries. It will not cover preventive care, he said. However, insurance firms said they can offer this basic package to companies with a large staff of 1,000 employees. They said it not feasible to offer cover on this low sum to individuals as they will not make any money out of it.
The mandatory health insurance is also linked to the renewal of expatriates’ residence or work visa. The new law makes coverage manadatory for every employee, including blue collar workers and domestic workers such as maids and drivers.
Though insurance companies do not offer the basic package cover, individuals still have to undergo elaborate evaluation from the insurance companies that want to know if you are really alone here without a family and the reason why the company they are working with is not offering the health cover, insurance agents said.
A reader wrote to Gulf News saying that insurance companies were reluctant to give him the basic package. He said he was informed that it is only for employees with large companies. "I really do not know whom to approach as we really need the health insurance to feel secure in this country. Please help," he said in the letter.
The Dubai Health Authority ( DHA ) has listed 43 insurance companies, including AXA and Oman Insurance, that have chosen to offer the basic package,
"The insurance sector is not [strictly] regulated," said one insurance company representative, noting that everyone, even individuals, should be offered the basic coverage.
He hinted that individual customers are viewed with suspicion and are thoroughly checked for any mala fide intent and to ensure no fraud will be committed.
A senior DHA official had earlier said the new law will ensure universal access to quality health-care services.
Hospitals and clinics are gearing up to handle the huge rush of patients once all residents have medical coverage. An additional 1,500 hospital beds are being added across the emirate.
Many expatriates suffer from lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Many wait until their annual vacations to avail of cheaper health-care services and medicines back home.
© Gulf NewsJun 2014