The United Arab Emirates, as the name suggests, are a federation of seven emirates. In many areas the individual emirates enjoy a high level of autonomy. Health care is one example of such areas and you will find that the system and most importantly health insurance rules and requirements are different in Dubai than they are in Abu Dhabi.
Expat health insurance in Abu Dhabi
In spite of the differences, overall the trend in the entire UAE has been clear – towards a system where all expatriates will be required to have valid health insurance from an approved provider, which will be checked upon entry. At the same time, employers will be responsible for (at least a basic) health insurance plan for their staff. This system has existed in Abu Dhabi for several years.
Expat health insurance in Dubai
In Dubai the plans to launch a similar system were delayed after the financial crisis, as it was feared that the new requirements would negatively affect business activity and the economy. However, at present it is being gradually rolled out and expected to be fully in force in 2016.
Employer-provided health insurance
Regardless of the legal requirements (or non-requirements), most Dubai companies have been offering private health insurance plans as part of their employee benefit packages for years, at least in the white collar sector. Nevertheless, these packages haven’t always provided high enough coverage. In general, the higher your position, the better health insurance package your employer will offer.
Negotiating health insurance packages with your employer
When you are planning to come to Dubai and negotiating your salary and other terms with a prospective employer, it is wise to pay extra attention to health insurance. Together with accommodation allowance these are the two benefits which have the greatest potential for helping reduce your everyday living costs in this expensive place.
Prices and quality of health care in Dubai
Keep in mind that the cost of healthcare is extremely high in Dubai, although typically for the high prices you also get outstanding quality of care. After all, Dubai has an ambition of becoming one of the world’s leading destinations of health tourism.
Both prices and quality vary across hospitals. When considering a health insurance plan (employer-provided or independent), pay attention to any lists of included and excluded facilities, as many plans exclude some of the more expensive hospitals.
Common health risks in the UAE
In line with the overall economic advances of the UAE, healthcare has drastically improved over the last decades and some of the most serious diseases, like malaria, polio or measles, have been virtually eradicated. The most common health risks result from the climatic and environmental conditions, particularly high temperatures and dust, which is often made worse by construction activities. Expatriates may find themselves struggling with heatstroke, dehydration, sunburn or respiratory problems. Those coming from colder climates, children and people of higher age should be particularly careful.