Dubai healthcare reforms could benefit expatriates
Monday, February 25, 2013
Living and working overseas is an attractive proposition for millions of people around the world. The relative political stability and economic strength of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made regions such as Dubai alluring to international professionals, and the city-state has seen an influx of expatriates in recent years. Foreign nationals are often seen as a driver of regional economic growth, as although many expatriates choose to stay in short term rental apartments and temporary housing upon arrival in a new country, a significant proportion of international workers living overseas see purchasing property as a major goal. However, while working abroad can be exciting and potentially beneficial to expatriates' careers, many people living overseas face serious obstacles, such as paying for healthcare treatment. According to Private Healthcare UK, officials in the UAE could soon change that.
Picking up where they left off
The news source reports that several high-ranking medical officials in Dubai believe now is the time to restart a compulsory health insurance coverage scheme for expatriates living in the region. Dubai's government had implemented a pilot project five years ago that was designed to alleviate the financial pressure on state-owned healthcare facilities by offsetting the cost of nonemergency outpatient treatment, prescription medication and primary healthcare. However, despite widespread support, the plan was suspended in 2009. Announcements declaring the initiative would resume were made in both 2012 and 2011, yet the new system has so far failed to materialize.
Many prominent healthcare officials in Dubai believe employers hiring international workers must share some of the responsibility for providing their employees with private medical insurance. Officials argued that the UAE's strong economic growth in light of stagnant financial markets caused by the macroeconomic crisis of 2007 make this year the ideal time to resume introduction of the program. Whether the plans will regain momentum remains to be seen, but the announcement could have a significant impact on foreign nationals living and working in Dubai.
Prevention is the best medicine
Appropriate preventative treatment is one of the most effective way to ensure treatable conditions do not deteriorate over time due to a lack of suitable medical care.
Eisa Al Maidour, the newly appointed director general of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), told Gulf News that proposed reform of the region's insurance regulations is a step in the right direction.
"A small disease becomes a very big illness [later on]," Al Maidour told the news source. "You feel safe with a [health insurance] card in your pocket. It's like a credit card [to use the medical services when you need it]. That is why we are pushing for insurance coverage - we want everyone to feel safe."
Although Al Maidour could not provide a specific timeline for when he expects the new system to come into effect, he confirmed that the plan was currently in the final stages of approval. This means expatriates living and working in Dubai could soon be able to take advantage of a greater range of medical services.
In addition to reforms in the healthcare sector, private investment will create more medical facilities to handle Dubai's rapidly growing population. Al Maidour told the news outlet that approximately 1,500 hospital beds will be available in the near future, and that ambitious plans to digitize the health records of every Emirati citizen and legal expatriate in Dubai are two additional priorities for the DHA. The overarching goal of the medical records project is to provide physicians with a more detailed overview of patients' treatment histories, allowing them to make more informed decisions about preventative care options.