Dubai: Companies of varying sizes were issued deadlines on Tuesday by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to meet mandatory health insurance coverage laws starting in 2014.
Following a meeting between the DHA and health insurance companies in Dubai on Tuesday, a new timetable offers deadlines for three categories of companies based upon the number of employees on their payroll — larger companies with wider profit margins will be required to ensure complete insurance coverage sooner while smaller companies will have until mid-2016 to meet the call.
Companies with more than 1,000 employees, for example, must insure all of its workers by October 2014.
The new Health Insurance Law was approved by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Eisa Al Maidour, director-general of the DHA, said in a statement on Tuesday that the “health insurance mandate will provide a significant boost to the health insurance industry, it will attract investment in the health care sector and will generate healthy competition between providers as well as health facilities. This only means further improvement in the quality of health services as well as more health care options and competitive premium prices. The mandate will benefit all the stakeholders concerned — this includes insurance providers, health care facilities and most importantly, patients.
Aim of the law
“Our aim is to provide everyone in Dubai with access to essential health cover and to empower them by providing them with the right to choose their health provider within the private or public sector,” Al Maidour said.
According to the new timetable’s Phase 1, companies with more than 1,000 employees will be required by the end of October 2014 to “ensure every employee/dependent has insurance coverage by the stipulated deadline.”
In the second phase of the plan, companies with 100-999 employees must implement full health insurance coverage by July 2016.
Under a third phase, companies with less than 100 employees have until June 2016 to arrange for complete insurance coverage.
The DHA timetable demands that spouses and dependents as well as domestic workers must also be fully insured for basic health coverage by June 2016.
When it goes into force, the new law will ensure that no work or residence visa will be renewed without a health insurance cover.
David Hedley, CEO of Mediclinic Middle East which runs the Mediclinic City and Welcare Hospitals, said earlier that this “is a giant leap forward for Dubai as everyone will have access to affordable and quality health care. I congratulate the government on its bold step and I am confident the insurance system will be implemented successfully.”
Dr Ahyam Refaat, founder of health care consultant Accumed PM, said in an earlier interview that the “long-awaited legislation is a step in the right direction. It will add to Dubai’s growth and public health and safety.”
Insurers need DHA permit
Meanwhile, the DHA said it will soon be issuing a list of approved health insurers who have applied for and received a permit to offer services in Dubai.
All health care providers will need to obtain a health insurance permit so that they are eligible to provide insurance cover in Dubai, Al Maidour said.
“In order to ensure we have the very best insurance companies on board, the DHA has laid out a set of criteria that all insurance companies need to adhere to, so that they are eligible to receive a health insurance permit, which is mandatory for companies that want to provide a health cover to anyone in Dubai.”
Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health, said: “Insurance companies interested in providing the essential health benefits [EHB] package to resident employees with salaries below Dh4,000 will have to undergo further qualifying criteria to ascertain their ability to provide an insurance package at an affordable rate. The premium for this package will range between Dh500-700 per person per year.”
He added that the package will cover all essential health services. “This package will cover emergency care, access to general physician [GP]/family physicians, referral to specialists, tests and investigations, surgical procedures and maternity care. All the necessary health requirements will be covered by this package. Therefore, once the mandatory health insurance is rolled out, people across the board will see the immediate benefits of the system.”
Cost for employers
Al Yousuf said that for employers, this will provide a minimum impact in terms of cost. “On average, health insurance costs 1.5 per cent of the monthly salary. For example, if an employer pays Dh10,000 per month in salaries, if he adds Dh150 per month, it covers the cost of health insurance. This is a minimum impact, adequate benefit plan; clearly, the benefits outweigh the minimum costs involved. The scheme protects both employers and employees from unforeseen health care costs that can arise out of an illness or an emergency.”
He said that as per the law, companies are liable to cover their employees only but the DHA encourages companies to cover the dependents of their employees as well. “It is a known fact that covering dependents of employees directly leads to greater employee satisfaction and better productivity.”