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Abu Dhabi Enforces Health Insurance Cover
Health officials from Abu Dhabi have reissued a warning to all residents in the Emirate to maintain an up-to-date health insurance policy or else face a stiff penalty.
At a conference held yesterday, the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD) unveiled a new media awareness campaign that aims to publicize the activation of the Health Insurance Law No. 23 of 2005 and to further educate Gulf residents about the tremendous importance of having valid health coverage in the Emirates at all times. The HAAD wants all companies and UAE nationals who have workers under their sponsorship to be aware of the national health insurance requirement as well as the new mechanisms now in place to enforce it.
Abu Dhabi’s Health Insurance Law states that active employers or sponsors in the Emirate must provide some form of health insurance in Abu Dhabi to all employees and their family members, including an employee’s spouse as well as cover for three children aged 18 or lower. The law also applies to laborers at construction companies, one of the largest sources of migrant work in the region. If an employer or UAE sponsor fails to adhere to this responsibility and either does not subscribe to a basic health insurance scheme or fails to renew their policy they will be subject to a minimum fine of Dh300 (US$82) per employee, worker or dependent, per month. Consistent violation of the law could also resort in an employer’s trade license in the Emirate being revoked. Anyone who reregisters after their policy expires will be treated as a new applicant.
Speaking at the conference Monday, Marwan Al Nabulsi, Head of the Enrolment and Inspection at HAAD, told attendees that their organization was prepared to do even more to ensure that all Abu Dhabi residents and workers hold adequate health cover. The HAAD introduced a new option in January this year that extends insurance eligibility, giving employers and sponsors the ability to secure a valid insurance card for their employees for up to three years at a time. “People will know the value of having an insurance card when somebody gets sick and they go to a hospital and they will have to pay the bill. If they don’t have insurance, they have to come up with the money to pay the bill,” Al Nabulsi said.
While these health insurance requirements have been in place since the law was issued in 2005, fines for non-compliance were not enforced until the middle of last year. Speaking at the conference, Dr Jamal Mohammed Al Kaabi, Head of Customer Service and Corporate Communications at HAAD explained that the necessary infrastructure for collecting and administrating fines could only be realized by the health authority in May 2010. This was followed immediately by a mandated grace period by order of Sheikh Khalifa, which gave offenders the necessary time to adjust to the new system in place. Due to the larger than expected volume of offending claims however, more moves were soon required by the HAAD to ensure the health insurance scheme could be properly maintained and enforced. “We spent four months under that order and then we decided to establish a committee within the health authority to look into all appeals that are presented through customer service and the committee,” Dr Al Kaabi explained.
In September 2010, HAAD established the Appeal Committee for Insurance Fines as their new subsidiary tasked with reviewing all health insurance appeals in the Emirate. Individuals looking to file an objection are charged a Dh100 (US$27) appeal fee before fines can be cancelled, while employers must pay Dh2000 (US$545) to have their case heard. According to recently released HAAD statistics, these appeal fees have not deterred many people from filing a complaint. Since the health insurance requirements have come into force, the Appeal Committee for Insurance Fines has received over 42,000 appeals. Of these appeals, HAAD notes that 27,895 have come from individuals looking to cancel their fines, 6,677 have been group appeals, while 6,319 have come from small companies and 1,262 from larger companies.
Despite this considerable appeal traffic, Dr Al Kaabi was confident that considerable progress had already been made and that the new health insurance scheme was already achieving desired results. “Activating the Health Insurance list of penalties is aimed at letting the sponsors/employers provide health insurance cover to all their workers/employees and not to collect violation fees. The HAAD has decreased the percentage of violations through this and sometimes it has made exemptions in order to allow everyone easier access to health insurance,” Dr Al Kaabi said.
The number of registered health insurance complaints has already dropped this year. According to HAAD statistics, 693 formal complaints have been filed since the start of this year, compared with over 2,300 complaints through the same period in 2010. A further 64 complaints have been moved onto the courts for final resolution. As it stands now, 97 percent of all workers and residents of Abu Dhabi are insured to some degree. The HAAD hopes to achieve 100 percent compliance in the near future. Insurance penetration and density in the UAE is at the highest levels in the Gulf region, and an increase in both native and expatriate populations is expected to only improve upon this trend. Al Kaabi concluded the conference saying that his organization hopes to attain this goal not through fees and appeal courts but from a deep mutual understanding of the importance of universal health insurance coverage and adherence to the law in Abu Dhabi. “We are not looking into collecting fines, what we are doing actually is we want everybody to be in compliance with the insurance law,” Dr Al Kaabi asserted.
William Russell Brings Award Winning Health Insurance Products to Abu Dhabi
Prominent international expatriate in Abu Dhabi medical insurance company, William Russell, announced this past week that they are finally bringing their award-winning global health, life and income protection plans to businesses in Abu Dhabi through a new partnership with a local firm.
William Russell’s global health insurance plans are designed to provide expatriate staff with access to the high-quality private Abu Dhabi's health care services they need whilst living and working overseas. Global medical insurance plans often appeal to large multinational corporations who need to provide quality benefits, usually with minimal restrictions and worldwide cover, for their discerning senior executive employees. While these high-value international health insurance products have been available in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for some time, strict health insurance regulations barring non-locally domiciled providers had prevented the sale of William Russell policies in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
However, this all changed in the past week. William Russell’s long time regional underwriting partner, the Dubai Insurance Company (DIC), was able to fully license their insurance products as part of eligible employee benefit schemes for all private sector companies in Abu Dhabi. These plans, which will now be distributed through international health insurance brokers and independent financial advisors, are underwritten by DIC and administered through William Russell. The product range will include William Russell’s Global Health expatriate in Abu Dhabi medical insurance plans, Global Life insurance protection for groups and individuals, and Global Income Protection, which provides a standard income for an expatriate if he becomes unable to continue working due to illness or injury. These plans were then further authorized by the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD), marking them fully HAAD-compliant in line with local regulatory policy. By law, all expatriate workers are required to take out health insurance while staying in Abu Dhabi, a provision now being extended to local residents as well. With one of the largest expatriate workforces in the region, William Russell could not afford to be out of the Abu Dhabi employee benefits market for long.
William Russell will oversee the rollout of their insurance products into this new market from their dedicated office for the Middle East region in Dubai. The insurer’s intended targets in Abu Dhabi will include both small businesses with several international employees and larger corporations who need to provide competitive benefits for their valued senior executives*. Colin Ward, the company’s regional sales director, explained in a press statement that their extended partnership with DIC, a well-established and reputable local firm, would enable them to more effectively market their international health, life and income protection plans across the entire Gulf region. “We’re delighted that the plans are now licensed for sale in Abu Dhabi, so we will be actively marketing the Plans within the region for any discerning clients who demand quality, both in terms of product and service, with minimal restrictions and worldwide cover,” Mr. Ward added.
DIC became the UAE’s first Abu Dhabi's insurance company when it was incorporated in 1970 as a public shareholding company. Over the past 5 years the insurer’s premium volume has grown from just under AED 30 million (US$8.1 million)to over AED 270 million (US$73.5 million) in 2011. William Russell has been involved with DIC since May 2008. Since the collaboration began, both firms have been witness to a sizeable growth in the sales in international health, life and income insurance products for companies throughout the UAE. According to the latest figures provided by William Russell, sales of new group insurance policies grew by 53 percent year-on-year in 2010, and 100 percent of all company policies have been renewed since November 2009. This considerable demand for greater international employee protection has necessitated the expansion of William Russell’s Dubai-based team, which included the appointment of an additional client relationship professional and a claims administrator back in 2010.
Combing DIC’s extensive local knowledge, infrastructure and experience with William Russell attractive international portfolio will give companies in Abu Dhabi the ability to offer more globally competitive benefit packages to both attract and retain their important senior staff. In a press statement, DIC Chief Executive Officer, Abdellatif Abuqurah, acknowledged that traditionally it had been difficult for companies in Abu Dhabi to secure a wide range of employee benefits and coverage options from one specialist insurer. Now that William Russell products are fully licensed for sale DIC expects local companies to show an increased interest in taking out comprehensive coverage policies. Large corporate clients will likely be drawn to William Russell policies that can guarantee high value international protection for their senior staff, while smaller Abu Dhabi-based employers will be looking for cost-effective group policies that can provide a wide range of benefits, such as health, travel, personal accident, life, and disability insurance cover. No matter the type of client opting to obtain the new coverage options, the Abu Dhabi protection market is sure to benefit from the introduction of an awarding winning expatriate insurance provider that is big on customer service and quality care. “Colin and his team will also be looking to the Abu Dhabi market, and our office in Abu Dhabi enables us to service and support brokers and clients locally,” Abuqurah added.
The expatriate workforce in Abu Dhabi and indeed the rest of the GCC remains vital to the continued economic success and development of the region. While choosing to live and work in the Gulf can often provide expatriates with a very rewarding career, failure to take out the right insurance policy that adequately protects your lifestyle will put your income and your family’s security at substantial risk in the event of illness, injury or worse. Through their new partnership with DIC, William Russell intends to mediate these risks in Abu Dhabi through their robust international and national insurance product portfolio.
Aviva Setting Up Locally Compliant UAE International Health Insurance
UK-based Aviva is moving to build a network in the United Arab Emirates to provide international health insurance products to expatriates situated on the Arabian Peninsula.
Many countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are facing rising costs of healthcare, often due to a rising number of instances of lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Abu-Dhabi alone spends approximately AED1 billion (US$272 million) every year on healthcare costs associated with treating young diabetics at risk of suffering heart disease in the future.
Abu Dhabi is not alone in this, with GCC compatriot Saudi Arabia having similar problems. The rise of sedentary lifestyles in the region has pushed the levels of obesity up alongside diabetes and related diseases. As many countries in the GCC pay for a large proportion of healthcare in their countries, this rising tide of costly chronic and lifestyle-related health problems is becoming an increasingly large problem.
The GCC healthcare market is expected to grow by approximately 11 percent a year, from an estimated AED94 billion (US$25.6 billion) in 2010 to AED161 billion (US$43.9 billion) in 2015. Given that much of this expenditure on healthcare is paid for by governments, many in the region are looking at health measures to ameliorate the trend lifestyle diseases, as well as possible health insurance mandates.
Abu Dhabi has led the way in this regard, initially requiring mandatory health insurance policies originally for expatriates to get a visa, and later expanding that program to the point where mandatory health insurance is now a requirement for most citizens and residents in the country. While other countries in the region may be debating similar requirements, some health insurance companies are working proactively to provide products that offer customers quality products while fulfilling any governmental health insurance requirements.
International health insurance company Aviva has recently been working with Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Insurance Company to build up a UAE health insurance network. Their efforts have paid off, resulting in the creation of Emirates’ International Solutions product line, a group of 4 benefit plans designed especially for the UAE region which will be available after March 1st, 2012.
In being designed for the local region, international health insurance products that are to be available from Aviva will comply with local regulation. This means that any expats who live in Abu Dhabi will be able to take out one of the Emirates’ International Solutions products and have it satisfy the visa requirement for compulsory local insurance, allowing them to simply have one plan to cover them in Abu Dhabi and internationally.
In commenting on the recent news, the International Business Lead for Aviva, UK Health, Teresa Rogers noted that “Offering health provision in the UAE is complex due to different legislative requirements across each of the Emirates. We’ve worked with a specialist international law firm to help us develop bespoke solutions for our customers based in the UAE and we believe that our four products will enable us to respond to changes in legislation and customer needs both now and in the future.”
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