Posted on Dec 12, 2012 by Sergio Ulloa
For those living in the Middle East, asthma and other respiratory problems continue to be a constant issue and topic of discussion. Statistics indicate that about 13% of adults and 25% of children in the United Arab Emirates suffer from a form of asthma. The World Asthma Foundation has released data suggesting that the number of people with asthma will increase by about 70% in the next 25 years in the region.
Some of the biggest factors contributing to these statistics are the annual sandstorms and the ongoing construction works taking place. The continuous construction in the area has created large amounts of dust and pollution in the air and PM10 levels, the measurement of small particles that can penetrate lungs and create respiratory problems, tend to be consistently high, often above the recommended level suggested by the World Health Organisation.
One of the worst seasons for asthmatics, and those who suffer from other respiratory problems, is the summer when sandstorms are a regular occurrence. Furthermore, in the summer months, air quality is very low and this also leads to a major increase in asthma attacks.
Air Conditioned environments can also play a major role behind respiratory problems, especially when poorly maintained air conditioned units are in use. Considering Dubai's residents live in a constant air conditioned environment, this is a major concern.
For those people at the younger and older end of the age spectrum, this can be especially problematic. Recently, several schools reported poor air quality levels due to the poor state that their air conditioning units were in. Factors like this are most likely contributing to the significantly high rates of respiratory problems among the young in Dubai (a figure among the world's highest).
As poor air quality can induce asthma attacks, hospitalizations from breathing problems is a very real concern and while there is an increasing number of reputable clinics and hospitals in the area, a stay in a leading hospital in Dubai can cost upwards of USD 10,000.
In Dubai, like much of the rest of the world, health insurance providers are not required to cover pre-existing conditions. The reason for this is simply because it is almost guaranteed that the insurer will have to pay for numerous medical bills for a single condition and this quickly becomes very uneconomical for the insurer.
However, this is not always the case and three insurers in Dubai (Allianz Worldwide Care, Bupa International and Interglobal), are choosing to provide those with pre-existing conditions with 'Full Medical Underwriting' (FMU).
In order to qualify, one has to be able to produce additional health history and information so that an insurer is able to gauge the severity of the condition and whether it should be covered with an additional premium, otherwise known as premium loading.
Allianz Worldwide Care has already had this option on offer for some time now but earlier in 2012, Interglobal and Bupa International also announced options for this unique form of coverage within some of their individual plans offered in Dubai. This is especially good news for people living in, or moving to Dubai who may suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems. However it should be noted that by selecting this benefit, premiums can cost an additional 5-25% depending on the condition.
This news of providing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions extends beyond just those with respiratory conditions and the FMU process can be extended to a variety of other conditions, including those such as hypertension, high cholesterol and Diabetes.
Considering that more than 50% of people suffer from a pre-existing condition that would otherwise be uninsurable, the advantage of an FMU places Allianz, Bupa and Interglobal in a strong position to acquire a larger portion of the market share in Dubai. Only 10 years ago, there were very few insurers who offered to cover pre-existing conditions and only IHI Denmark regularly chose to do so but today, a growing number of insurers are including this option and increasing the standard of health care coverage within the region as a result.
This growing trend of offering more coverage has not been quick to reach Dubai (a market that requires insurers to be licensed onshore) but with these recent developments, it is expected that covering pre-existing conditions will become the norm, and no longer the exception.
Neil Raymond, CEO of Globalsurance, commented on the situation: "When clients used to come to us with existing medical conditions, getting these covered even if they were minor issues, was basically impossible. Now however, with three leading insurers being about to cover a full range of issues, we are able to give clients a lot more piece of mind".
As healthcare costs continue to rise in Dubai, it will be increasingly important to make sure that any pre-existing condition will be able to be covered by an insurer. The quality of the air is not expected to improve any time soon, but at least expatriates moving to Dubai can be confident in knowing that treatments for asthma, respiratory problems or other pre-existing conditions may now be able to be covered by leading international health insurance providers.