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Medical insurance costs in the UAE are on the rise, and so far in 2024, residents are not noticing any slow down in premiums. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: UAE residents who feel they have already paid significant amounts on their medical insurance policies last year are in for a disappointment – rates on renewals and brand new policies continue to rise in 2024.

The increases have been particularly heavy on renewals tied to policies that had seen sizeable claims in the past 12 months. Even when these individuals have tried to shift to new insurers, they find that the asking premiums remain stubbornly high.

If there are claims, you pay is the message residents are hearing from their insurers. Ask for some discounts on their asking rates, the chances are you will not be getting any.

Across the board, medical insurance rates are on the march, and applies even for new residents in the country and who have had no medical history to show in the country.

For the UAE’s employed and those who get family coverage as part of it, these are not issues they need to deal with. Even then, they will find that co-payments at healthcare facilities are rising, which is the share they will have to pay for treatments.

Some kind of increase in UAE medical premiums was always on the cards, and this is what the market had been seeing through 2023 after 3-4 years of limited tariff rise. Now, the speed at which premiums are growing is what’s worrying the insured.

An area that can be worked on is ailments related to mental health for different age groups that are not covered - these must also be considered by UAE insurance providers

- Taher Shams of Zulekha Healthcare Group

Insurance industry sources say there is nothing that can be done from their side to curtail the increases.

“2023 saw a substantial inflationary impact on healthcare costs in the UAE,” said Avinash Babur, CEO of, who echoes the sentiment shared by multiple insurance industry sources. “This upward trend necessitated the introduction of increased co-payments for cost containment, and ensure the sustainability of insurance plans.”

How UAE medical insurance premiums have trended since Q1-2023:
1. Between Q1-23 to Q2-23, the average increase was from Dh5,770 to Dh6,071 (5.2% rise).
2. Between Q2-23 to Q3-23: From Dh6,071 to Dh6,947 (14.4% increase).
3. Between Q3-23 to Q4-23: A decrease from Dh6,947 to Dh6,915 (0.5% drop)
4. Between Q4-23 to Jan-Feb of 2024: Increase to Dh7,300 (5.6% increase from Q4-23)

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Employers too are footing higher bills

Even group insurance coverage come at higher costs for UAE’s legions of businesses and other employers. HR industry sources say this has directly fed into their average cost per employee, even without factoring in higher salary, bonuses, etc.

The market is actually seeing more residents opt for higher levels of medical cover at renewal. Also, the influx of new residents to the UAE are from markets with a culture of buying comprehensive health insurance products

- Avinash Babur of

Will medical insurance rates stabilize?

UAE insurers are unanimous that the period of heavy discounts on medical are over. Even on new policies, they take that extra effort to see what their chances are of getting hit with claims. Intense scrutiny of the individual’s medical condition from the past is more or less a certainty before a claim is processed. (Individuals of a certain age will have to provide verification of this via medical tests and that adds to the costs.)

“Medical insurance is mandatory in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and this will soon come along to other emirates as well in the interest of their resident populations,” said Taher Shams, Managing Director of Zulekha Healthcare Group.

“As healthcare providers, we still have scope to work together with corporations and insurance providers to ensure the best affordable deals are made available.

“One area that can be worked upon is ailments related to mental health for different age groups who are not covered - these must also be considered by insurance providers.”

That, based on current trends, will still be some way off.

But if medical insurance becomes compulsory across all emirates – thus extending coverage to the non-employed too – that would likely force premium growth to slow down. The simple equation being that insurers have a much bigger pool of the insured.

A lot thus rests on when universal healthcare insurance premium becomes a must. For now though, residents and businesses will find medical insurance rate gains are not slowing down…