Local vs. International Health Insurance in Dubai: Which is right for you?
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Local vs. International Health Insurance in Dubai: Which is right for you?

We offer you free comparisons of Global Medical Insurance plans in Dubai. Find out more about International Health Insurance coverage from our experts.

By now, most people in Dubai are well aware of the recent changes in health insurance requirements that have been laid out by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). By June 2016 every person in the Emirate will be required to have health insurance coverage or suffer a penalty. While this requirement will come with costs to those that need to pay for it, society at large in Dubai gets the benefit of access to world class medical care. Inevitably, some people will only obtain the very minimum level of insurance benefits that is required by the government, while still others will have better benefits, but still be restricted to only receiving care in Dubai. Here, we take a look at the benefits of local vs global health insurance plans, and point out any pitfalls that you will likely want to avoid.


Minimum requirements

The DHA has done an admirable job of laying out a framework for its required health insurance. There are a number of common and critical care items that every person in Dubai must be covered for, including in-patient, out-patient and maternity care.  Here are the services, treatments and procedures that are covered:

  • Surgery

  • In-patient treatment

  • In-patient diagnosis

  • In-patient tests

  • Corrective laser and surgical treatment for vision

  • Hearing and vision aids

  • Diagnostics and treatment for dental and gum treatment

  • Vaccines and immunizations

  • Diabetes Screening

  • Medicines

  • Physiotherapy

  • Radiology diagnostic services

  • Laboratory testing

  • Specialists and consultants

  • Diagnostics and treatment by a general practitioner

  • Out-patient examination

  • Newborn cover

  • In-patient maternity

  • Out-patient ante-natal

As you can see, many of the most common health problems can be addressed by the required health insurance, whether provided by an employer or purchased privately. However, don’t assume that the minimum benefits will act as a panacea. As it turns out, there are real limits on how much use you can get out of the minimum level of benefits required. First of all, the DHA has only called for basic plans to reach a maximum annual limit of AED150,000. That means that a particularly costly accident or a expensive ongoing treatment could quickly bring your plan to its limit. Additionally, the reform allows for a co-insurance payment as high as 20%, so one fifth of the cost of any treatment may have to be paid from your pocket.

International health insurance plans

While there are individuals that spend most of their time travelling around the globe for whom having an international medical insurance plan is a no-brainer, these types of people are not the only ones that can take advantage of such a plan. Whether it’s a person whose company requires them to travel a couple times a year for business, or a family that takes an annual international vacation, many people in Dubai will find themselves outside of the UAE at some point each year. For those that can cope with the higher premiums and avail themselves of this type of plan, there are a number of benefits.

  • Worldwide coverage: As mentioned previously, with an international health insurance plan you can receive benefits for medical care virtually anywhere in the world. Many plans provide coverage in every country worldwide, with the common exception of the United States – where healthcare costs are the highest. However, plans that include the US are available, though usually with a higher cost.

  • Portability: Let’s face it, even a city as bustling and dynamic as Dubai is still often a stepping stone for transient professionals as they find work all over the world. With an international medical insurance plan, someone who has to move to another country permanently can retain their current health insurance plan, whereas a local plan is likely to just need to be cancelled. This will help to avoid things like pre-existing condition exclusions and waiting periods that can sometimes come with having to find a new plan with a new insurer.

  • Freedom of choice: With international health insurance plans, not only can you receive medical care anywhere in the world, you also have the freedom to choose which hospitals, doctors or medical professionals you want to treat you. While some local plans will restrict patients to a limited network of care providers, international plans allow individuals to go with what works best for them.

  • Evacuation: Living in a highly developed place like Dubai, it’s easy to forget that in many parts of the world it is difficult to find high quality healthcare and modern medical facilities. Travelling outside of the area, it is possible that a medical emergency might arise when in a part of the world that is ill equipped to deal with a particular medical issue. People covered by an international medical insurance plan can rest assured that they will be able to get to an adequate treatment center due to the evacuation feature that comes with many plans. With this feature, a patient can be evacuated from where they are to the nearest safe and reliable medical center that has the ability and equipment needed to assist them.

Local-DHA compliant plans

Local plans have an immediate advantage over plans that cover a larger geographic area simply because they generally cost less. With local health insurance plans, insurance companies know that they will only have to pay on claims made in Dubai, which has a very stable healthcare system, so the risk for them is quite low. Once insurers open up the whole world to a client, stability and certainty go out the window, and the risk of hospitalization, extremely costly or low quality treatment and even medical evacuation go up considerably. Thus, premiums do as well.

On the negative side of local plans, people who spend a lot of time outside of Dubai, and merely use it as a primary residence and base of operations, will be completely unprotected if they need medical assistance outside of the emirate. The fact remains that, Dubai itself is a major medical tourism destination that people in surrounding countries go out of their way to seek treatment in, but should an accident occur outside of Dubai, the burden of cost will fall to the patient.

As you can see there are pros and cons for both types of plans, and only you can decide your individual level of exposure to risks both inside and outside of Dubai. Just know that options are available for every need.

If you have questions about either type of plan mentioned above, be sure to contact the knowledgeable and friendly agents at UAE Medical Insurance. They can provide you with answers, as well as provide you with plan comparisons and price quotations for plans with the coverage area that you are looking for.


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Registered Office: PO Box 391195, Dubai, UAE