Many residents begin their search to buy health insurance in the UAE after they learn that they are sick or that they will need to pay for an expensive procedure. Unfortunately, that is not the way a private healthcare system works. While it is completely understandable to start seeing the value of insurance protection after you are sick, at the end of the day, medical insurance companies are here to make money. There are several ways insurers make profits; one of the primary means, and the core of the insurance business, is through the insurance premium itself.
The industry provides protection against medical expenses in return for receiving a premium upfront. Their goal is for the total amount of health insurance premiums they sell to be more than the medical expenses they incur as a result of customers’ claims. In reality, the concept behind every type of insurance, whether it is health, car or travel insurance, is the same. Imagine insurers allow drivers to buy motor insurance to cover vehicle repair costs after they have already been in an accident. That would be a losing business proposition every time. While it might make you uneasy to think of your health in those terms, it is the same theory. The idea of waiting periods and pre-existing condition clauses exists because health insurance companies want to avoid such situations. If you knew you needed a treatment that will cost you AED 10,000, and you buy a medical policy for AED 4,000, then the insurer has lost AED 6,000 on you from day one. This doesn’t mean they do not expect you to ever get sick, the goal is that in any given year, the premiums received from all their customers combined exceeds the healthcare costs from those customers that do get sick.
Now that health insurance in Dubai is mandatory (by the end of June 2016 everyone needs to be covered), it will become less common to see people waiting until they are sick to buy medical coverage. However, this does not necessarily mean you will be covered under all circumstances. Policy exclusions will never go away, so you need to make sure you compare health insurance plans before making a decision. On top of that, when you first sign up, you will likely be subject to waiting periods. This means that if you buy a policy today, you will need to wait at least a few weeks before making a claim.
For any family or individual policy, you will have to fill out a medical health form during the application process. The insurer reviews this closely to make sure you do not have any major, existing medical conditions. So what happens if you do? Typically, they will either increase your premium, or exclude the pre-existing condition from your policy, meaning they will not pay for any treatments or conditions related to it.
So what are your options if you want to buy health insurance and are already sick? Truth be told, it is not an easy question to answer, and none of the solutions are full proof, perfect or easy.
Many large employers in the UAE offer comprehensive group health insurance policies to their employees. Every person in the company that is insured under the company plan gets the same coverage as other employees, which means no one is excluded for pre-existing illnesses. Keep in mind that this varies from company to company and depends on what insurance plan a corporation provides to its employees. So while it is not easy to go out and get a job with a company of your choosing, this is actually one option – find a large company that provides comprehensive medical coverage (as we said earlier, none of these solutions are perfect or easy).
Treatment at home
Many expats in the UAE come from countries that have comprehensive public healthcare systems. So taking a trip to go and get a procedure done may be an option. However, you have to keep in mind that in many countries, public healthcare coverage is only available to residents (since they are the ones paying income taxes). This means you may not be covered if you are registered as a non-resident national. Of course, the actual cost of the treatment may be cheaper in your home country when compared to the costs in the UAE, so flying back home may still make sense.
Buy an individual policy
You will not be able to start using it immediately, and it will be expensive; but after the waiting period, you will be able to start making claims for medical treatments under your policy. More importantly, you do not schedule your illnesses, so don’t make the same mistake twice and wait for the next medical emergency to start thinking about health insurance. The whole point of insurance is to protect you against unforeseen circumstances, and the most severe type of emergency is one that concerns your health, or that of a loved one’s. So if it’s not too late, buy health insurance in the UAE today, and don’t wait until you actually get sick. If you’re already sick, buy medical coverage anyways to protect yourself against future illnesses. Given the high costs of healthcare, the consequences can be catastrophic.