The Dubai Health Authority has worked out basic health insurance packages in the range of Dh625 to Dh800 for dependents, spouses and domestic workers. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Dubai residents in the dependants and domestic worker category now have been given a six-month grace period, until the end of 2016, for mandatory health insurance cover that goes live by June 30, officials of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said on Thursday.

The linkage of health insurance to residence visas in this category will not be activated now, which means individuals in these categories going for issuance of visas will not be rejected in these six months due to lack of health insurance.

While the Health Insurance Law No 11 makes it mandatory for every Dubai resident to have health insurance by the end of June, dependants of sponsors, that includes spouses, children and domestic workers such as houseboys. maids and nannies, will not incur a fine for not having mandatory health insurance cover, clarified Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, director of health funding at DHA.

Dr Yousuf said: “We are clarifying this as there has been a lot of misinformation in social media about insurance deadlines and penalities. We reiterate that although it is the legal responsibility of each and every Dubai resident to have health insurance by June 30, dependants and domestic servants will not be fined if they fail to honour this deadline. We want to make it clear that we are not extending the deadline but we are not levying fines in case of these sub-categories in Phase 3 of the implementation. We want people to adopt insurance as a positive step and not as a result of fear of fines.”

So far, only 40 per cent people in the Phase 3 category — which includes companies with 1-99 employees, individuals, dependants and domestic help — have subscribed to health insurance. Nearly 60 per cent in this category have yet to get health insurance.

The six-month grace period is meant to take the fear out of punitive action or fines on individuals and the DHA plans to hold roadshows in public places, including government offices and malls, to educate people on the importance of having mandatory health insurance. Already, a few insurance companies have set up quick policy-issuing kiosks at some malls to facilitate the availability of insurance to residents, said Dr Yousuf.

Dr Yousuf added that so far no company has accrued any fines in the rollout for Phase 1 and Phase 2 which had a 2014 and 2015 deadline. It may be recalled that companies in Phase One with 1,000 or more employees had a deadline of October 30, 2014 and companies with 99 to 1,000 employees that fell in the Phase 2 rollout had a July 31, 2015 deadline.

“None of the companies in Phase 1 or 2 had any penalties and we have had many positive stories of people thanking us for their health insurance cover having taken care of sudden surgeries and illnesses. In fact, we actually protected the interests of the sponsors too. People must realise that health care goes beyond a few Paracetomols and cough syrup. While you may manage with these sometimes, sooner or later you are likely to need health insurance to cover bigger medical emergencies. However, people always like to think that they are invincible. Paying an essential package cover of between Dh565 to Dh625 for a blue-collar worker can save the sponsor big bucks in case there is a big illness. The same applies to dependants of sponsors. We want the society to have a postive trasnformation towards health insurance and not one dictated by fear,” he said.

However, Dr Yousuf declined to reveal who would be authorised to collect the fines if and when they are implemented. “We will reveal these details gradually,” he added.

The DHA has ensured that the large contingent of blue-collar workers that fall in the Phase I and Phase 2 categories have received their health cards. “We work through the GDRFA systems and liaise with the nine insurance companies that are registered for essential basic package (EBP). We had a campaign to make sure that these companies held road shows within labour accommodations and saw to it that each worker got his or her insurance card. The blue collar workers are the largest category for the EBP coverage and so far things have worked out smoothly,” he added.

Once the grace period is over, the fines per month for individuals violating the health insurance rule stand at Dh500.