Dubai: Medical insurance companies in Dubai will be charged for emergency ambulance services as a part of health insurance plans by the end of the year, officials announced on Tuesday.

The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) and ACCUMED Practice Management signed an agreement to start the implementation of “self-finance strategy” of ambulance services in Dubai.

The ACCUMED Practice Management will manage the relation with insurance companies and provide billing service and collection on the behalf of the DCAS, with phase one expected to be completed by the beginning of September.

With emergency services covered under mandatory health care insurance, all insured patients in Dubai will have to provide insurance cards to ambulance staff.

Officials clarified that ambulance services used by people without a valid health insurance will be covered by the DCAS as a public service provider. Currently, services covered under basic insurance plans include ambulance services and transportation for trauma patients to hospitals in Dubai.

Visitors calling for an ambulance during their stay in Dubai will not be charged until the completion of phase two of the DCAS’s self-finance strategy plans at the end of 2017.

“Visitors are currently not charged for ambulance services in Dubai, but will be by the start of 2018 through their insurance plans. This is in line with new regulations that require all visitors to have insurance coverage in order to obtain a visa to the UAE,” Dr Ayham Refaat, founder and managing director of ACCUMED, told Gulf News.

While the first phase of the self-funding project includes pricing and contracting with insurance companies in Dubai, the average emergency ambulance service was said to cost around Dh750.

Meanwhile, statistics provided by the DCAS also showed a 14 per cent average annual growth in emergency calls, numbers increasing from 76,490 calls in 2010 to 169,640 calls in 2016.

Improving services

The project also aims to enable the DCAS to achieve the maximum benefit from its revenue stream.

Khalifa Bin Darri, executive director of the DCAS, said while health insurance coverage “will help in reducing government spending on ambulance and emergency”, the DCAS aims to become 100 per cent self-funded.

The self-funding project will play a major role in enhancing ambulance services, increasing the DCAS personnel, supporting the ambulance fleet with more vehicles, and providing patients with fast and premium services.

“We currently have 15 Emirati advanced paramedics being trained to handle severe emergency cases on the spot, before patients are transferred to a hospital,” said Bin Darri.

Patients will be taken to the nearest and most equipped hospital — private or public — regardless of insurance coverage.

“The main focus is the patient’s well-being. Once admitted, the hospital must treat the patient despite their insurance coverage plan and has 24 hours to transfer them to another hospital covered by the insurance company,” said Bin Darri.

As a result of this project, the UAE has become the first country in the Middle East to diversify the funding of its emergency ambulance services. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has mandated private health insurance for all its residents as a way for funding the health care system in Dubai.

The move has also come after last year’s announcement by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, who issued Executive Council Resolution No. 2 of 2016 on fees for ambulance services provided at the site of traffic accidents.

The resolution said that Dubai Police and Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services will charge a fee of Dh6,770 for emergency and evacuation services provided to each casualty in a traffic accident. This fee will be collected from the insurance provider of the party that caused the accident.