Dubai: All of the recently opened hospitals and clinics plus the tough guidelines being set by medical insurers are starting to hold back inflation in health care costs in the UAE, according to industry sources.

In another welcome trend for the health care sector, availability of adequate insurance coverage is prompting more of its residents to stay and take advantage of expensive medical procedures rather than get it done in their home countries.

“The economies of scale are starting to talk — and not a moment too soon,” said Raza Seddiqi of RAK Hospital, part of Arabian Healthcare Group. “There have been clear instances of specialist consultant fees of Dh700 being forced down because insurers are insisting on Dh350-Dh400.

“The stability on medical procedural/intervention costs is also stabilising across the board. Influence is shifting from health care operators to a more equal relationship between insurer and operator.”


In the initial roll-out of Dubai’s mandatory health care insurance for all, those with newly won medical coverage became more frequent in approaching providers. It was a bonanza for health care operators as insurers were still trying to get to grips with the volumes.

Apart from the base premium set by Dubai Health Authority for an entry-level package, insurers had the flexibility to set their own charges on wider covers. Even then, they tended to play it safe by setting premiums at a relatively lower level to win over key group accounts.

That is changing now. Insurance industry sources say that enough transactional data has been created since the passing of the compulsory medical cover provision in Dubai. That cachet is helping them intervene more “forcefully” if they see any pricing discrepancy from the average in billed costs from the health care operator.

“It’s in the last six months that the health care sector’s been seeing this sort of price stability dictated by insurer demands,” said Seddiqi. “Another reason is that several new hospitals/clinics and speciality medical centres keep getting added — unless they are offering something radically cutting edge in terms of treatment or inpatient experience, there are limits to what the newer operators can charge.

Evolutionary change

“Their presence has also forced existing operators to relook at their rates, or been told by insurers that they will have to. There is no other way — no health care market with mandatory insurance cover for all can afford to have runaway costs.”

The evolutionary change is being felt on other fronts as well. Earlier an expat Indian would have chosen to get a cardiac surgery done back in his country, at a cost of Rs200,000-Rs300,000 (Dh10,900-Dh16,400. These days advances in the health care infrastructure and insurance provision allows him to do so here.

“In time, even liver transplants could happen in the UAE, as costs would come down with more facilities and under strict laws,” said Seddiqi. “Until now, so many medical procedures were not available just because they could not be cost-effective. That’s changing now.

“This will be the main requirement for medical tourism to really pick up in Dubai/UAE.”