Abu Dhabi: From next month onwards, all health care facilities in the emirate of Abu Dhabi must issue medical bills for patients, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health has announced on Monday.

The bill or invoice must detail the treatment, the services provided, and any patient cost-sharing obligations or co-pay amount. The regulation will come into effect from May 1.

The new policy aims to ensure that patients understand their rights and obligations while also increasing overall awareness about the cost of health care services, said Mohammad Al Haji, acting director for health system financing at the Department. The new policy stems from the Department’s efforts to promote transparency and reduce the costs of providing unnecessary medical services, he added.

“[All] health care providers and professionals must provide patients or their attendants a detailed electronic statement by text message or via email that outlines all charges incurred. Furthermore, health care facilities must keep copies of the issued bills for when an audit by the department is due,” Al Haji said.

Residents in Abu Dhabi Emirate have had mandatory health insurance from about 2006 onwards. Since nearly 99 per cent of patients pay for their medical services through health insurance, most health care facilities do not currently provide itemised invoices for directly billed medical services.

In practice, receipts are currently only given to patients who pay for services out-of-pocket because the service or treatment is not covered under their insurance plans. In some cases, patients opt to avail of a treatment outside the network of facilities designated in their insurance plans. In such cases, insurance providers can sometimes provide full or partial reimbursement to the patient later, but an itemised invoice must first be submitted to the insurance company.

The new regulation will mean that come May 1, all patients get access to electronic invoices, regardless of their insurance status.

“Last year, I had to get my ultrasound done at a hospital outside the network of facilities approved by my insurance provider. I specifically had to request for the invoice, but my insurance claim was rejected because the hospital had not provided an itemised invoice with the detailed cost of each service. So I had to return to the hospital once again just to get a detailed bill,” said S.M., 32, an Sri Lankan media executive.

“This is therefore a good initiative by the Department, and will make things more convenient for residents, in my opinion,” she added.