Abu Dhabi: A large number of Emiratis working for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) have expressed their dissatisfaction with the mandatory health insurance programme known as Thiqa.

Thiqa was launched in May 2008 as part of the implementation of the health insurance law. It is provided by the National Health Insurance Company (Daman).

Launched by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), it provides all Emiratis working and residing in Abu Dhabi with comprehensive free healthcare coverage at all private and public healthcare facilities in the Emirate. Over 500,000 Emiratis across the UAE have enrolled in the programme to date.

Under Thiqa, Emiratis are not charged for treatment in public and private hospitals. Pharmaceutical and dental care is free at public clincs, but patients have to pay 50 per cent for the same treatment at private clinics. Previously, Emiratis were offered free medical services across public and not private hospitals using a health card under the Ministry of Health.

Several Adnoc employees who spoke to Gulf News, on condition of anonymity, said they preferred the previous health insurance scheme for Emiratis, which offered better services and freedom of choice among diverse public hospitals.

An Emirati driver in Adnoc, who is over 60, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. He was charged about Dh300 for two boxes of antibiotics. He went to a public hospital to check if he could get the medicines free of charge. A top Adnoc official said he found out they did not even have the proper Thiqa billing system at the public hospital.

HAAD has decided to pay only 50 per cent of the bill for Emiratis for dental and pharmaceutical services in the private sector.. leaving us no choice but to go to the public sector, the official said.

Other Emiratis working for Adnoc in Dubai have complained of the Thiqa clause, which discriminates against Emiratis living in Dubai and the northern emirates.

"There is nothing mentioning health services across Dubai and the northern emirates in the Thiqa clause, I have read it thoroughly. It only mentions health services across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

"So how am I supposed to prove that I can be covered in any hospital I visit? If you want to start something for us do it the right way and study it before you do. And the fact that they are charging us for pharmaceutical and dental services is also very strange. Since when have we been required to pay in our own country," said the official.

HAAD in a statement to Gulf News, said: "The mentioned individual is eligible for services in Dubai under Thiqa, a programme paid for by the government of Abu Dhabi. The schedule of benefits for Thiqa provides full and largely free coverage in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and coverage in the rest of the UAE [including Dubai]."

However, Emiratis who require treatment outside Abu Dhabi are required to pay 10 per cent of charges for outpatient and inpatient services under the Thiqa UAE network for non-emergency services.

Other Adnoc employees told Gulf News they would like to have freedom of selection and to choose a similar health insurance scheme enjoyed by their expatriate co-workers who are covered by the Oman Insurance programme.

Daman and Adnoc refused to comment despite several requests by Gulf News.