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Health Insurance Reforms Abound

Posted on Aug 13, 2008 by Sergio Ulloa ()

It seems that in the current climate of medical inflation many countries around the world are growing increasingly concerned with the ability of visitors to use, and perhaps even abuse, the medical facilities and hospitals in their destination. One of the first places in the world to institute restrictions on visitors receiving medical treatment was Hong Kong when the government created a policy requiring pregnant mainland Chinese women to have a hospital booking before being allowed into the city. Its evolved into such an issue that now the HKSAR government has stated that they are banning Pregnant Mainland women from even booking hospital beds from September through December of this year. Hong Kong is not the only city to impose restrictions on visitors for medical grounds, the City of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is also instituting visitor reforms; however in this case, Dubai is more concerned about insurance.

Any visitor wishing to enter Dubai must have a visa, even if the length of their stay is less than 24 hours and under current Dubai immigration practices there are 16 categories of visa, ranging from visitor, to resident. However, with new legislation announced on Tuesday August 12th, any individual who obtains a Dubai visa must also obtain health insurance, which will need to provide an 'adequate' length of coverage for the entire stay. The Government of Dubai consulted with a number of insurance organizations within the emirate and picked to companies to offer their services through the immigration counters at the airport.

These mandatory plans for visitors will include coverage at medical facilities within the insurer's network, accidents and emergencies, and the repatriation of mortal remains in the event of death. These policies will not cover, however, any medical treatment occurring outside of the hospital network except in the event of a life threatening situation, maternity related treatment, chronic conditions or illnesses, or any eye or dental treatment.

Essentially this reform could be viewed as an attempt by Dubai to exploit a captive market (any and all visitors to the country) into purchasing a product and stimulating the economy as soon as they arrive in the country. However, looking at the fine print this is not the case at all. Individuals traveling to Dubai who are in possession of an International Health Insurance policy are exempt from the requirement to purchase a local health insurance plan when they arrive in the emirate.  

The obvious question here is why? Its quite simple really. The government of Dubai is very obviously concerned about foreigners entering the country, having an accident, and then - either due to the type of insurance that they possess in their home nation, or the fact that they simply don't have insurance coverage - not being able to pay for their treatment. Recognizing that International Health Insurance plans offer some of the best medical coverage in the world, and that they allow a policyholder to use the hospital or doctor of their choice, meant that the only foreigners with whom the government didn't have to worry were those who were in possession of this type of policy.

In an age where medical inflation is becoming a global issue, where hospital overcrowding is not just a 'poor nation' problem, and where an inability to afford medical is the number one cause for personal bankruptcy in the USA, we may see this type of 'automatic' protection legislation being passed in other nations. Even at a time when places like Thailand, Singapore, and India are relaxing entry requirements on medical tourists other nations are imposing higher restrictions; and quite honestly it may be time to start worrying.

That is, unless you have an international health insurance policy....

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