Expatriates living in Dubai are being warned that they have less than a month to ensure that they, their families and any employees they may have are covered by a health insurance plan.
The Dubai government has been rolling out its new health insurance law in stages since 31 Oct 2014, when only those employers with 1,000 or more employees were obliged to meet the new requirements.
The final stage of compliance, in 28 days’ time, will require everyone who has a Dubai residence visa to have a minimum level of health cover, including such domestic workers as maids and car drivers.
Failure to obtain cover could result in fines, which would have to be paid by the individual’s “sponsor”, who is typically a family member in situations in which it isn’t an employer. According to the Khaleej Times, the fines would be around AED500 (US$136, £94) for each month that a dependent is not covered.
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.
In April, the Dubai Health Authority said that around 75% of Dubai’s expatriates were covered by health insurance, leaving 25% to sign up in less than three months’ time.
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 any “maids, nannies, gardeners, drivers and so on” who work for them.
“The message is that everybody with a Dubai visa must have health insurance in place, and it is the responsibility of employers to provide it for their employees; or, in the case of someone who is self employed, they must provide it for themselves,” Turner said.
“And you cannot pass the cost on to the insured person, for example, you cannot make deductions from your maid’s salary for her coverage.”
There are special types of insurance for employees like maids and nannies, who are classified as “lower salary band (LSB) workers”, offered by AXA Gulf, Met Life and some local insurers, Turner noted.
Turner said the introduction of the law was a “massive move forward” for Dubai, which, unlike many countries such as the UK, doesn’t have a national health service to provide free medical care on demand.
“As with anything of this kind, there will probably be some bedding-in issues, as things crop up that hadn’t been thought of, but the overall principle of it is absolutely solid.”
At Holborn, Turner said he and his team are currently working on developing better products for their clients, which “broaden the network of hospitals and clinics” that their clients may make use of, when needed, without dramatically increasing the price of their coverage.
To download a pdf document of frequently asked questions about the new health insurance law in Dubai, click here.
This story has been updated. To read the updated version, click here.