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Health Insurance for Expats in the United Arab Emirates

Submitted: December 2013

It is advisable to get your insurance arrangements in order prior to entering the UAE.

It’s best for an expat in the UAE to have private health insurance, as expats generally need to rely on the private healthcare system. Remember that public hospitals are unlikely to accept foreign nationals, except for emergencies. The very fact of being insured would make a public hospital even less willing to take you as a patient.

A hospital is unlikely to accept your insurance details in lieu of payment. Consequently, you should be prepared to pay upfront and apply for reimbursement from your insurer.

That said, you can still ask your healthcare provider if he is happy to send the invoice directly to your insurer, but do ask this beforehand. Should your insurer be reputable enough, it is likely to have partnership agreements with local healthcare providers and pharmacists. Going to a provider that has an agreement with your insurer may result in:

  • saving you from paying the full amount upfront
  • entitling you to discounts.

Some insurers actually exclude all healthcare establishments that do not fall within their network.

Employer-provided health insurance

The rules regarding health insurance may vary from one emirate to another. For instance, Abu Dhabi requires all employers to provide health insurance to their employees whereas Dubai has imposed this requirement in late 2013 only (subject to a three-year transitional period). It should be noted that health insurance does not necessarily include family members.

Typically, a mandatory health insurance policy only includes basic cover, such as GP consultations, specialist referrals, hospitalisation, tests and emergency care. Needless to say that dental care, eye care and cosmetic surgeries are excluded.

International cover

You should check the geographical coverage of your existing insurance policy, if you have any.

If you have a foreign policy but you haven’t been sold it as an international insurance cover specifically designed for expats, your policy is unlikely to work in the UAE. In that case, you should let your insurer know that you are moving to the UAE, and switch to an international cover. Your insurer is likely to charge you extra for this, but do bear in mind that the very fact of being insured in several countries carries an extra burden as well.

A good international cover would insure you against:

  • medical costs in the UAE
  • medical costs in your home country (or another relevant foreign country), and
  • medical evacuation costs (without adequate insurance, these can be well above  $20,000).

If you are coming to the UAE only for a short stay, you probably don’t need international health insurance. Instead, you should consider having appropriate travel insurance to make sure you are covered if an accident happens while you are in the UAE.

 

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