Last year was about taking on COVID-19 and countering its spread. This meant for the first-half of the year, chances of UAE residents heading to healthcare facilities for other needs was greatly diminished. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Are you getting the feeling you are paying more on your health insurance? The chances are that you are.

Medical insurance premiums in the UAE actually increased by 8 per cent last year – which is higher than the growth in inflation, according to Alvarez & Marsal, the consultancy. This is over and above the increases in recent years.

The breakout of COVID-19, ironically, would not have been a factor in the increase in insurance premiums. Much of the COVID-19 related treatment was footed by the local authorities, or was heavily subsidized.

Plus, with the nation focused fully on countering the pandemic, for much of last year, fewer people were turning up at hospitals and clinics for consultation. Also, elective surgery and other inpatient procedures were postponed where possible. Against this background, the rise in insurance premiums would come as a big blow to employers, who have to offer compulsory cover for their workforce.

"There continues to be a shift in patient demands, as well as an increase in competition and cost pressures

- Dr. Sara Alom Ruiz

Call in help

What the pandemic did is accelerate telehealth usage in the UAE, and could be growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25 percent per year to Dh19.7 billion by 2025. Telehealth “may become the next frontier to cope with public health crises and a key pillar of post COVID-19 patient care,” according to the consultancy.

Last year, 91 per cent of UAE insurers reported their policyholders as using telehealth services, against 31 percent pre-pandemic. Over 50 per cent of expats in the UAE are likely to use telehealth for primary care, 14 per cent more than global averages.