Dubai Health Insurance for Expats
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- Expat Friendly Hospitals in Dubai
- Free Health Insurance for Dubai quotes
- Dubai Expat Health Insurance
- Dubai Insurance Companies Introducing Electronic Claims System
- Dubai Ramps Up Medical Tourism Effort
- Agility GHS Commences Operations in Dubai
- William Russell Expands Dubai Team on UAE Growth
- Improving Medical Tourism Strategy a Central Focus for Dubai Health Care Providers
- UAE Travel Insurance Sector Expects Growth
The Dubai Health care infrastructure has kept pace with other health care developments to ensure that adequate services are provided in the Emirates. In 1971 there were only seven hospitals and 700 beds in the UAE. By year 2000 the number of hospitals has risen to 51, the number of physicians has also risen to 1,535 and nursing staff to 4,664.
The number of clinics and health centers primarily expatriates population of UAE has also increased from 21 to 115 well equipped modern centers. Thirty of the hospitals with 4,496 patient beds are run by the Ministry of Health (MOH). Four hospitals with 1,524 beds are run by Dubai's Department of Health and Medical Services (DOMS). This hospital are well run and can cater to the international health insurance needs of expatriates in Dubai. Dubai Health Insurance companies will be able to serve the needs of the people as well as the more than 80% expatriates living in the City. The Department of Defense runs 4 hospitals. Moreover, there are 3 private non-profit hospitals with 148 beds, 21 privately owned hospitals with 827 beds, 1,019 privately owned clinics, and 1 hospital with 36 beds run by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). These hospitals are furnished with the latest medical equipment.
The MOH budget has increased from Dhs 1,006 million (USD 274 million) in 1991 to 1,494 Million (USD 406 million) in 2000 with an average increase of 5.2% per year.
The Government plans for expansion and upgrading of its Dubai health care system is ongoing. The construction of 17 public hospitals including extensions to existing hospitals will add 1,800 beds in various medical outlets, nearly doubling the bed capacity of public hospitals in the UAE over the next 10 years. Landmark projects already completed include Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Hospital for surgery and emergency cases in Abu Dhabi, a general hospital at Medinat Zayed in the Western Region, and the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Hospital in Ajman. All have been provided with the latest in medical equipment.
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Dubai Insurance Companies Introducing Electronic Claims System
Insurance policy holders in the Emirate of Dubai should enjoy greater efficiency and transparency when filing a claim since the launch of an electronic database system by the government recently.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) announced in March 2012 that they had officially launched their electronic website portal for health insurance claims in Dubai. The scheme, administered by local healthcare informatics firm Dimensions Healthcare Solutions, is expected to be used by all hospitals and clinics in the Emirate. In its initial phase, the DHA database will cover the claims made under the Dubai government’s health insurance program, commonly referred to as Enaya, but could eventually be extended to policy holders enrolled with other Dubai health insurance companies across the emirate as well. It is the DHA’s long term objective to ensure that every claim in Dubai is captured and backed up electronically to help minimize insurance fraud and abuse, and improve quality of life and healthcare outcomes across the emirate.
The DHA’s new electronic claims database started with a solid customer base of 100,000 government employees and will gradually increase by recruiting other Dubai health insurance companies to participate in the scheme over the next few years. Making health insurance claims available electronically and accessible at any time is expected to provide numerous benefits to both local health insurance companies and policyholders once the scheme is fully rolled out to everyone. At present, medical insurance claims in Dubai are filed manually with local healthcare providers sending paper claims to medical insurance companies. This process not only takes considerable time for the appropriate claim data to be processed but also leaves participants vulnerable to fraud, abuse and other adverse developments. Now, all claims for the Enaya insurance scheme will be submitted electronically. Eventually this will be applicable for all insurance plans in Dubai.
According to DHA Director-General Qadi Saeed Al Murooshid, an emirate-wide digital claims mandate could prove to be a significant milestone for local commerce and industry as well, as transaction data collected online will be shared with the private sector to facilitate future capacity planning and investments in Dubai-based healthcare and insurance companies. “This has several advantages, it gives us an edge to run a successful medical insurance system, it ensures minimum fraud and abuse by providers and also gives us the ability to plan clinical capacity for Dubai based on actual customer behavior patterns and data,” Al Murooshid said in a press release, adding that the electronic claims database further demonstrated the government’s commitment to improve healthcare spending and attracting international investment, “because investors will have clear data about the areas of high demand in the health sector in Dubai.” The DHA wants the number and quality of private hospitals and clinics in Dubai to increase further, easing the burden on the public treasury. This will be necessary not only to maintain a sustainable national healthcare system but also to give impetus towards growing the local medical tourism industry.
Allowing for insurance claims data to be more closely monitored online will also provide the DHA with real time visibility and analysis of national healthcare spending. The Authority hopes that this will enable them to develop longer term national healthcare planning strategies, identifying areas in need of investment more efficiently, with minimal waste, and thus hopefully driving down costs for all. While Dubai’s public and private healthcare facilities are internationally renowned for high quality of service, the emirate’s burgeoning population and economy are sure to test the capacity of existing infrastructure in the coming years. According to the World Health Organization, the UAE spends around 2.5 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, much lower than many Western countries. However, since the UAE is a tax-free area, as healthcare costs rise, they become more difficult for the government to carry entirely on their own. Added to this, employment levels in Dubai are projected to double by 2015, and national GDP growth is estimated to be an astonishing 11 per cent over the next 10 years. The demands on the current healthcare system will thus increase dramatically in the near future.
Dr. Haidar Al Yousuf, DHA Director of Health Funding, noted that the shift to an electronic medical insurance claims system was indeed part of this wider healthcare system overhaul and could prove integral to the future development of private industry as well. “The system will minimize abuse, provide instant data which will be used by the DHA for several strategic long term healthcare planning initiatives... and we will provide assistance to all healthcare facilities that need any guidance to use the system,” Dr Al Yousuf said. By the end of the year, DHA officials expect insurance claims from all the medical insurance plans in Dubai to be captured electronically.
The DHA’s electronic claims system is furthermore supposed to serve as a preparatory step towards the implementation of Dubai’s national health insurance scheme, now delayed until 2013. This new medical insurance system, designed to cover every employee in the emirate through employer mandate, has been in development for quite some time but frequently pushed back due to pervasive structural and economic challenges. Dubai has needed to address the growing number of uninsured residents for some time, and particularly coverage issues affecting the emirate’s sizeable expatriate population. According to the Dubai Household Health survey, over 75 per cent of Asian and Arab expatriates in Dubai had no health insurance during 2010. While these residents can indeed still apply for health cards and access to public health facilities, rising healthcare costs have forced many to abstain from treatment until it’s too late. Treatment costs in Dubai government hospitals have risen to roughly the same level as those of private hospitals. According to the DHA, however, the introduction of their electronic claims system should work to ameliorate these issues and more by gradually improving transparency and reducing costs amongst local healthcare and insurance companies. “In future, once the mandatory health insurance for Dubai is implemented, e-claims will be the tool for insurance claims communication,” DHA Director-General Al Murooshid, remarked.
Dubai Ramps Up Medical Tourism Effort
In 2012, the Emirate of Dubai reaffirmed their commitment to medical tourism by increasing cooperation between public and private healthcare operators through a new national development initiative.
The Crown Prince of Dubai, Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, called a meeting with top officials from various government and private sector bodies in April 2012, to discuss the Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) new initiative on medical tourism and what could be done to fast-track development and promotion efforts going forward. The Dubai government wants to establish the city as both a regional and global hub for medical tourism in order to further diversify the local economy away from its total dependence on oil and gas. If successful, new healthcare facilities targeting foreign patients could also work to lift local health standards and create more investment and job opportunities at home. The crown prince made it clear at the meeting that Dubai’s healthcare sector needed a unified approach going forward to overcome previous inter-departmental squabbling and muddled promotional efforts, which have resulted in many citizens leaving the emirate and heading overseas for medical treatment. A lack of cooperation between state and private sector players has been cited by industry analysts as a key impediment to further developing the Dubai medical tourism sector in the past.
The DHA medical tourism initiative, part of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, will build on some core competitive strengths of the Dubai medical care , including their existing network of advanced medical facilities, large pool of active internationally-accredited healthcare professionals, and lavish tourism infrastructure, to further leverage Dubai’s image abroad as a prime destination for health and wellness-focused travel. A key part of this initiative will see the formation of a new coordinating body tasked with creating a national campaign promoting Dubai’s healthcare facilities. This task force will comprise of members from various government departments, including the DHA, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing and the General Directorate of Residency & Foreign Affairs, and their leading private sector counterparts in the local healthcare and tourism sectors. The DHA will then take the recommendations made by all members on the panel to better market their medical treatment, cosmetic treatment, spa and wellness services.
In addition to these promotional efforts, new infrastructure guidelines are also being brought in to standardize the quality of care offered in Dubai’s healthcare facilities. The DHA has given all hospitals operating in the emirate until the end of 2012 to get or at least begin the process of attaining Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation. According to the DHA, nearly 61 per cent of Dubai hospitals claim to already have JCI accreditation, while 29 per cent are now in the 2 year process of obtaining this certificate. Industry authorities are also working on a set of local criteria to help foreigners shopping for medical services in the emirate. Facilities are expected be categorized by cost, with minimum standards and customer protection rules put in place to reassure overseas clients.
The decision to launch this new health tourism initiative is indeed a timely one for Dubai. The usage rate of private sector medical facilities by foreign patients in the emirate has surged over the past three years, according to recently released industry figures. Dubai Healthcare City, the UAE’s largest medical centre, noted that 15 per cent of their 502,000 patient base last year were made up by foreign medical tourists, up from 10 percent of 412,000 patients in 2010, and the estimated 5 percent of 231,000 patients in 2009. The City Hospital in Dubai reported that they receive between 10 and 15 medical tourists every month, up from the five a month using their facilities in 2009. The DHA expect health tourism revenues to surpass AED6.1 billion (US$ 1.6 billion) by the end of the year.
While updating the local market’s regulatory policy will certainly be welcome, Dubai’s medical tourism sector must also work to address several other obstacles to improve their competitive position, specifically the emirate’s lack of unique specialized healthcare services and pricing disadvantages versus emerging markets. The Emirates’ high percentage of young and expatriate population, often cited as positive longer-term economic growth drivers, actually works against the further development of the private medical tourism industry. As most of Dubai’s expat workforce is expected to return home when they retire, the local demand for specialized medical treatment services, normally tied to aging populations, remains low by global standards. Thus, without sufficient business volume in their home market, Dubai’s private healthcare sector has found it difficult to develop and sustain these advanced (and often lucrative) medical services. As it stands, there are simply not enough highly specialized services available in Dubai that other medical tourism markets do not offer.
Dubai’s medical tourism sector also face a competitive disadvantage with regards to pricing, particularly from rival markets in Asia. For example: the average cost of heart bypass surgery in the UAE is around US$44,000. The same treatment costs just US$18,500 in Singapore, US$11,000 in Thailand, US$10,000 in India and US$9,000 in Malaysia. Several factors contribute to these cheaper medical expenses, namely the lower cost of living, staff salaries and reduced travel costs. As they cannot compete on costs, people who travel to Dubai will instead look for access to quality health care and privacy, with their last priority being price. If Dubai can work to address these issues and become more competitive it will surely attract more prospective medical tourists.
Another challenge is that many local patients still prefer to get medical care abroad. According to the 2011 Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) report, UAE governments are currently spending more than US$2 billion each year on sending out local patients to foreign countries for advanced medical treatment. Over 130,000 people from the UAE visited foreign countries for medical treatment last year, including 4,500 whose expenses were covered entirely by the government. As the emirate’s population continues to expand, these subsidized healthcare costs could become unbearable.
Agility GHS Commences Operations in Dubai
South Africa-based medical system administrator and managed care provider, Agility Global Health Solutions, began operations in the Middle East through a joint venture agreement with a local insurance conglomerate in 2011.
Agility GHS’ partnership is with the Dubai Islamic Insurance & Reinsurance Co. (also known as AMAN Insurance). The joint venture, named Amity Health, provides various coverage options throughout all Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries and will develop the presence of Agility GHS services in the region’s growing private healthcare market. The company believes that its consultancy services could help double this new regional enterprise’s annual revenues within three years.
AMAN Insurance has been proactive in expanding the Gulf’s insurance capacity. Last month, the firm announced a partnership ICICI Lombard General Insurance to develop suitable coverage options for the substantial non-resident Indian (NRI) population now living and working in the UAE and across the MENA region. As citizenship and permanent residency are not often granted to immigrants in these countries, maintaining affordable access to necessary services like healthcare remains an issue for many non-resident immigrants.
Speaking on the launch of their joint venture with AMAN, Mike Collier, Chief Executive of Agility GHS, explained that despite the current political unrest in the Middle East, the region was prosperous and the desire of its citizens to improve their health outcomes and general lifestyle remained.
“We are going there because there is market growth but they are relatively inexperienced in managing health risk. In Dubai, one in five adults is diabetic. That is 20 percent of the population, we need to look at how do we keep the people healthy,” Collier remarked.
Collier further argued that the recent moves in the GCC to instigate Dubai national health insurance reforms would need the private sector’s resources and expertise to achieve its lofty targets. “There is legislation being pushed to introduce mandatory private healthcare insurance for everyone. Health care will still be free because contribution will be underwritten by government, but it is being pushed through private providers,” he said.
Amity Health began operations in December 2010. To date, the company has developed a network of over 800 service providers. Amity also holds contracts with 45 large employer groups and was projected to cover over 30,000 people throughout the Gulf by the end of 2011.
Now with Agility GHS’ involvement, the Amity Health portfolio could expand rapidly and within three years would be expected to provide coverage for more than 1 million GCC citizens. Introducing comprehensive medical savings accounts and wellness programs in the region will help encourage Amity Health members to stay healthy, remain lifetime policyholders and ultimately draw further business.
Collier further explained that ensuring positive health outcomes had not been a focus for the insurance market previously in the region, and companies had suffered as a result. “At the moment, there is no relationship between wellness and insurance and I think the market is ready for that. All the insurers who offered risk have been burnt because they did not structure the products accordingly,” he said.
Agility GHS first became involved in the Middle Eastern market in 2006. The company started off offering technology and outsourcing solutions to regional health insurers and assisted in managing certain risks for their health portfolios. Agility GHS entered Australia in 2004, providing similar IT services for healthcare financiers, and have since also moved into Hong Kong, Pakistan, Nigeria and India.
“Throughout Africa, people want better health. We have a plan for Hong Kong and we are working on a strategy for Pakistan ahead of India. Our partners in Dubai are talking about Turkey,” Collier added.
Agility GHS now plan to use the Dubai office as a central hub to further extend its international operations. From here on out, the company would prefer expansion through the joint venture model and working with local partners. Agility GHS are looking for similar AMAN-Agility partnership agreements in countries it currently is operating in as well.
William Russell expands Dubai team on UAE growth
William Russell’s distribution deal with the Dubai Insurance Company is paying off, with large demand for William Russell’s Global Plans spurring the company to add additional staff to the Dubai-based team.
The partnership sells William Russell’s Global Health, Global Life and Global Income Protection products, underwritten by Dubai Insurance Company, which are targeted at small and medium sized expatriate employers and individual expatriates in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In the first quarter of 2010, new group sales have grown 53% over the same period last year and the renewal rate has been at 100% for all plans since November 2009.
With high demand from companies in the United Arab Emirates looking to insure their expatriate employees, William Russell is expanding their office to accommodate the new business, adding a relationship manager for corporate accounts and a claims administrator. Doreen Moss joins the business as a Corporate Account Manager to maintain and increase business through her client-facing position. Previously, all out-patient claims were processed through William Russell’s UK home office, but with the addition of another claims administrator, eligible out-patient claims will now be processed and paid locally in the Dubai office.
The new additions to William Russell’s Dubai office mean increased levels of service to clients in the area. Customers remain able to freely choose their preferred health care provider in Dubai, while their claims will now be managed in local currencies within the geographical area, which should expedite claims processing and payment. Group Global Health members are offered access to the Neuron direct settlement network, allowing them cashless access to healthcare facilities in the GCC area.
Improving Medical Tourism Strategy a Central Focus for Dubai Health Care Providers
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) was not only the Diamond Sponsor of the 3rd Annual World Medical Tourism and Global Health Congress in September, 2010 in Los Angeles, but also walked away from the convention with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Medical Tourism Association.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will see the Dubai Health Authority and the Medical Tourism Association both working towards the continued development and build up of the medical tourism sector in Dubai. This may include collaborating on the Dubai Health Authority’s efforts to improve upon its healthcare capabilities, regulations and policies.
The DHA considers private healthcare providers as major stakeholders in the country’s healthcare sector, and seeks to encourage the development of cutting edge healthcare facilities by the private sector. One way Dubai has done this is through projects such as the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), which was put into motion by the UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, as a dedicated location for medical providers to provide high quality, patient-centric care. The Dubai Healthcare City now has two hospitals, and more than 90 diagnostic laboratories and outpatient medical centers.
Dubai will host the regional Medical Tourism Congress in February 2011, which will be the first time it is ever held in the Middle East. At the conference in February, the DHA and private sector healthcare providers will showcase their medical centers of excellence in different fields such as surgery, diabetes management and rehabilitation facilities for the global medical tourism industry.
The DHA has seen a trend over recent years showing increasing number of regional medical tourists traveling to Dubai from other countries in the Middle East for medical treatment. The DHA is hoping that further efforts will increase Dubai’s standing as a medical tourism destination for a broader audience, drawing more international patients from around the world. However, they face stiff competition from countries like Singapore, India, Thailand, Turkey, and a number of South American states which are already well established within the international medical tourism industry.
The CEO of the Health Policy and Strategy Sector of the DHA, Laila Al Jassmi, said that, “The medical tourism industry generates over US$30 billion of revenue annually. It is a huge industry globally and Dubai already has many factors that work to its benefit. At the DHA, we are strengthening our policies, regulations and further developing our healthcare capabilities to strengthen the medical tourism sector. In terms of the GCC region, we are already witnessing an increase in the number of patients and now we are keen to provide the international patient with lucrative healthcare opportunities in Dubai. At the DHA, we consider the private sector to be a key stakeholder and thus both the public and the private health sector in Dubai will be a part of the medical tourism conference which takes place in 2011.”
UAE Travel Insurance Sector Expects Growth
There may be boom times ahead for the UAE travel insurance market, as both inbound and outbound tourism numbers begin to rebound after a difficult couple of years. One of the Gulf state’s largest insurance companies has predicted travel insurance sales could now grow by 40 percent in 2012 alone.
Speaking at the Dubai Economic Outlook 2012 presentation on Wednesday, Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum stated that the UAE economy would expect to grow by around 4.5-5 percent this year, and that the Gulf’s tourism and travel sectors would be major contributors to the country’s commercial development going forward. Buoyed by vast oil and gas wealth, the UAE economy had moved at a brisk pace up until the 2008 global financial crisis, when Dubai’s once powerful property and construction sector required a massive US$26 billion government bailout to restructure their considerable debts. This event of course impacted other sectors of the economy as well, with foreign investment and tourism declining in tow.
Dubai has since come back from the crisis however and, according to government officials, is now stronger than ever. According to the latest government estimates, the UAE’s GDP grew by about 2.5 per cent in 2010 and by more than 3 percent in 2011. This surge in economic activity has been driven by the Emirate’s trade, logistics and tourism sectors, which accounted for almost 60 percent of Dubai’s GDP growth in 2011.“These sectors have recently experienced vigorous growth, as demonstrated by the buoyancy in tourism and hospitality and the substantial increase in passenger traffic through Dubai International Airport in 2010 and 2011,” Sheikh Ahmad said, adding that the UAE’s financial sector has also remained resilient and robust, in spite of recent real estate challenges.
Dubai’s travel and tourism sectors are now forecast to grow by more than 6 percent each in 2012. Given these strong performance indicators, Dubai insurance companies are becoming increasingly keen to establish a presence in the Emirate’s emerging travel insurance sector and to develop new products that effectively target both inbound and outbound tourists. An official from Dubai Islamic Insurance and Reinsurance Company (or AMAN Insurance) was on hand at the same event to explain what moves could now be made by insurers to capitalize on the increased international demand for travel insurance both into and out of the Emirates. According to AMAN, the UAE travel insurance market should grow by a considerable 40 percent this year as consumer spending confidence and tourism activity improves in the Gulf region and abroad. It also important to note that the UAE is fast becoming a prime medical tourist destination due to its well developed healthcare infrastructure, specialist doctors, state-of-the-art medical centers, and expat friendly communities.
Hussein Al Meeza, Chief Executive and Managing Director at AMAN, told local reporters that this forecasted growth had given his company the impetus to now consider a wider range of travel insurance initiatives for prospective UAE travelers and that developing this market further could prove integral to their overall success in the region. “The country’s travel insurance market has demonstrated key vibrancy despite the effects left behind by the global economic crisis,” Al Meeza said. Recent laws which have made travel insurance a requirement to securing travel visas to certain countries outside the Emirates have also contributed to this growth. In line with this development, AMAN has launched three new travel insurance products: Musafir, Shengen, and Haj & Umrah cover.
These products are each designed for specific travel activities and will provide comprehensive and cost-effective benefits for both individual and family policyholders in the UAE. The Haj & Umrah travel insurance policy has been specifically designed for travelers going on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Shengen travel plan meanwhile will focus on travelers visiting any country within the Schengen European states (France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Sweden et al). Each insurance policy will provide certain core benefits to policyholders, including emergency medical expenses and hospitalization abroad, transport and repatriation services in case of serious illness or accident, personal accident cover, and medical referrals to local health professionals. Additional riders will also be made available for emergency dental care, medical evacuation, personal baggage, passport and money loss cover. Al Meeza explained that these new insurance products would give AMAN policyholders and prospective travelers “the safety, security and confidence of full coverage, giving them the advantage of enjoying their trips without any hassles or worries.”
AMAN has continued to be a market innovator in the UAE. The Dubai-based firm has consistently looked at ways to diversify its product portfolio and improve its presence across various insurance lines. Last year the AMAN, in a partnership with ICICI Lombard, developed the first insurance products geared towards the Emirate’s sizeable non-resident Indian workforce. This collaboration followed yet another successful year for the UAE insurer. AMAN’s company filings, available on their website, showed that profits improved by 32 percent during the fourth quarter of 2010, with revenues surpassing AED157.9 million (US$43 million). The insurer was also the recipient of the World Finance award for the Best Takaful Provider for 2011, a fast growing business line which will surely prove integral to AMAN’s success going forward.
Outside of travel insurance and AMAN, the UAE insurance industry should continue its forward momentum throughout 2012. According to consulting firm Alpen Capital, the UAE insurance sector is expected to grow by 19 percent annually over the next 5 years. The emirate already boasts the most developed financial market in the GCC, with insurance penetration and density levels far above their regional peers. Further economic development and population growth is only expected to improve upon this trend. The UAE has been heralded for opening up its insurance and financial systems to greater foreign participation in recent years. This has worked to reduce the presence of entrenched national insurance companies and has brought more foreign expertise into the market. Another key factor driving the expansion of the insurance industry will be the UAE government’s massive infrastructure projects, which were previously stalled or cancelled in the aftermath of the 2008 global economic crisis. Many of these projects are now underway again, principally those in tourism and hospitality, and their success could boost the local economy and further UAE insurance sales along with it.