Dubai in surprise announcement of health insurance ‘grace period’

With just 28 days left before a final deadline for everyone in Dubai to be covered by health insurance, the Dubai Health Authority unexpectedly announced yesterday that it would give individuals a “grace period” lasting until the end of the year to “get themselves and those they are sponsoring insured” before they would become liable to pay penalties.

As reported, expatriates living in Dubai have been warned that they have less than a month to ensure that they, their families and any employees they have are properly insured, in order to comply with a new mandatory health insurance law that the Dubai government has been rolling out in stages since 31 Oct 2014.

However, in a statement issued at a press conference yesterday (pictured) that was later posted on its website,  the Dubai Health Authority said that although the deadline for compliance with the new law was still technically June 30th, “penalties will not immediately be imposed on individual sponsors who fail to insure themselves, employees and dependents”.

“Individuals, their families and their employees – such as maids, cooks etc…– will be given a grace period until the end of the year,” Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, director of health funding at the DHA, said.

“We urge everyone to abide by the law, which aims to protect not only their dependents but also the sponsors.”

According to the new law, the legal liability for every sponsor is to provide an essential insurance package – fixed between AED550 and AED700 (£103.74/US$150 and £132/US$191) – so that those with annual salaries under AED4,000 (£754.45, US$1,090) would receive adequate health cover.

The DHA said that beginning next week, the health authority would begin organising workshops and road shows, at which companies that have been approved to provide the most basic insurance packages will be available to explain their products to the public and, it was hoped, move the take-up process along.

As reported, the DHA said in April that around 75% of Dubai’s expatriates were at that point covered by health insurance, leaving 25% to sign up in less than three months’ time. According to published reports, around 3.8 million people in total live in Dubai under a so-called Dubai residence visa, and it is expected that almost 95% will eventually have to come under the new mandatory insurance regime.

However,Dr Al Yousuf revealed  yesterday that just 30% to 40% of those who fall under the third phase of the health insurance law’s staggered roll-out – which is basically everyone who didn’t fall into one of the previous categories, or in other words, self-employed individuals, families of employed persons, and casually employed workers, such as maids and drivers – have already been covered.

Joining Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia

In bringing in a mandatory health insurance law, Dubai joins fellow United Arab Emirate Abu Dhabi, and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council member Saudi Arabia. Qatar has moved towards introducing a scheme, but put it on hold in December, according to media reports.

Craig Turner, managing director of Holborn Employee Benefits, an affiliate of the Dubai-based advisory firm Holborn Assets, said it was “very important” that expatriates in Dubai be made fully aware of their obligations under the new health insurance regulations, particularly as they will be considered responsible for providing coverage for their domestic helpers and family members.

Information on the new mandatory health insurance regulations may be found on the website of the Insurance System for the Advancing Healthcare in Dubai, or ISAHD, by clicking here.

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