A cancer patient being screening by MRI at burjeel hospital in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News archives

Dubai: The Essential Basic Package holders of health insurance in Dubai are likely to have cancer included in their coverage with effect from 2018, say sources in the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

However, insurance companies have sent a mixed response to the DHA Health Funding Department’s decision as this will increase the cost of reinsurance for them and also hike the premium of the basic package (EBP). The formal announcement of cancer coverage is slated to come soon.

Cancer is the third biggest cause of death in the UAE after road trauma injuries and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). The incidence of breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers remains high.

Gulf News has learnt that a few week’s ago, the DHA’s Health Funding Department called a meeting of all insurance providers to recalibrate their coverage to include cancer in the Essential Basic Package. A senior person at the department told Gulf News: “We discussed the idea of including cancer treatment and giving full coverage for the disease in the EBP with our insurance providers with effect from 2018. This will be done even if the expenditure on cancer treatment exceeds the annual aggregate limit of Dh150,000 provided in the EBP.”

This will mean that those with EBP can now expect a definite insurance cover to protect them against such an eventuality. 

However, insurance providers say that what had been discussed with them so far was only cancer screening. A source from an insurance company, confirmed: “We have been told that beginning 2018, preventive cancer screening tests will be covered in the EBP.”

Another third party administrator (TPA), explained: “All insurance providers usually have to get themselves reinsured so that if the premiums don’t cover our cost, the reinsurance takes over the additional burden. Reinsurance is a simple case of insurance providers seeking an insurance policy for themselves.

“In any case, as more and more people are getting aware of the benefits of health insurance, the demand for insurance and our costs are going up. Earlier, if only a third of those insured knew how to use their cards, nearly 80 per cent now are utilising their health insurance and so our costs have already gone up and so have the premiums to reinsurance companies. Now with cancer screening included, we will have to get a higher reinsurance coverage to reduce the risk we operate at.”

If cancer treatment is to be covered, the premiums will be affected, fear health service providers as the average cost of any cancer treatment for a year is easily Dh100,000 and above.

In any case, if an individual is diagnosed with cancer within the first or second month of his insurance coverage, he will be covered for the pre-existing condition only six months after being diagnosed. After that, within a year when his insurance expires, he will have to renegotiate a higher package considering his condition.

A cancer patient is expected to take a package which could have a high annual premium, considering the stage and severity of his condition.