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Speakers at the virtual press conference on Sunday. Image Credit: Suchitra Bajpai Choudhary/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE is on track towards achieving universal health coverage to all, as per the first National Health Account report of 2017.

The NHA report presents the UAE’s road map for health expenditure. It was conducted as per the global Statement of Health Account (SHA) standards is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and was released by the Ministry of Health and Prevention on Sunday.

The health ministry based the health expenditure in households to the National Health Survey, which covered 10,000 households, while the expenditure for all other related sources came from the sources themselves. A team of experts gathered data and compiled it in a period of 10 months.

Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais

“The 1st National Health Account findings revealed that the UAE is leading the Gulf, Arab and Eastern Mediterranean countries in the total expenditure on health per capita, in itself a remarkable achievement that would enhance the effectiveness of national initiatives, projects and policies in line with the Future Foresight Strategy and the UAE Centennial 2071,” Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention.

Overall health expenditure grows to Dh57b

As per the NHA report, the current health expenditure of the UAE rose by 26 per cent from Dh45 billion in 2016 to Dh57.02 billion in 2017.

Highlights of the National Health Account results
* The Current Health Expenditure per Capita has run to $1,669 in 2017, from $1,323 in 2016, amounting to the highest among the Gulf countries and countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR).
* The Current Health Expenditure increased by 26%, from $12.3 billion (Dh43 billion) in 2016 to $15.53 billion (Dh57.02 billion) in 2017
* In 2017, Compulsory Financing Arrangements comprised 82.6% of the CHE, which was estimated at 71.6% in 2016, recording 15.4% growth.
* The Out of Pocket Expenditure as per cent of CHE dropped by 36% reaching 12.2% in 2017, down from 19.2 per cent in 2016.
Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand

Presenting the report at a virtual press meet, Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary of Health Centres and Clinics at MOHAP said the first edition represented a paradigm shift towards developing a robust health economy, strengthening the health financial system, supporting the decision making process, health policies and strategies within the country.

“Although most of the health systems around the world are experiencing challenges and changes in response to many economic and social factors arising out of COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE health care system has demonstrated exceptional effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and flexibility in line with the UAE centennial 2071 and sustainable development goals,” said Dr Al Rand.

Current health expenditure per capita on the rise

The Current Health Expenditure (CHE) per capita increased from Dh6,128 ($1,669) with a similar growth rate of 26 per cent up from Dh4,858 ($1, 323) in 2016.

The CHE is marking up 4.03 per cent in the current GDP registering a 14.3 per cent increase as against 3.5 per cent in 2016 pointed out Dr Al Rand. He added, “As per WHO recommendations to reduce financial burden on individual, the out of pocket expenditure as a per cent of CHE dropped by 36 per cent reaching 12.2 per cent in 2017 from 19.2 per cent in 2016. This reflects the government’s intent in strengthening the financial protection of individuals and help them obtain health services and universal health coverage for, which is the main goal of UAE health goals, part of the sustainable development goals.”

The main takeaways from the current data
* Expenditure on health in the UAE is sustainable via generous governmental expenditure and compulsory insurance
* The UAE health system is growing the expanding toward a world class level
* Health Expenditure per Capita is the highest in the UAE among the Gulf countries and countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR).
* The out of pocket expenditure, though it has decreased, further decrease is targeted
* Insurance firms manage approximately 55 per cent of health funds
* Hospitals consumes approximately 54 per cent of health expenditure

With insurance corporations turning into main financing agents for the current health expenditure, Dr Al Rand said this trend would attract private investment in health sector and promote healthy competition between public and private health sector enhancing the quality or health care in the country.

19% of total health expenditure spent on medicines

He also pointed that the current spending on medicines as per the report stood at an estimated 19 per cent of the total health spending. This made the UAE drug market the most attractive in the Middle East for multinational pharmaceutical companies, said Dr Al Rand. A spokesperson from the health ministry said the findings will help inform a variety of policies regulating health care system and models of care and help address issues such as allocation of resource, type of policies required for Universal health coverage and health finance and the best kind of health insurance laws and policies among other issues.

The report is available on the health ministry’s website as part of open data.