Avoiding Massive Medical Debt in Dubai: A Case Study
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Avoiding Massive Medical Debt in Dubai: A Case Study

Using an example from earlier in 2015, UAE Medical Insurance examines how you may be at risk of piling up medical debt when you least expect it, and outlines how you can avoid being surprised by exorbitant medical costs, even when you think your insurance has you covered.

A serious injury or illness is one of the worst events that can happen during a holiday. The Taylors, a British family spending their holidays in Dubai, learned that lesson first hand in March 2015. Ann Taylor, aged 70, took ill during the family’s vacation and was admitted to Dubai’s Rashid Hospital where she later passed away. This extremely sad event was made even more difficult by the fact that Ann’s family were left struggling to pay around Dh250,000 in medical bills – bills that weren’t covered by insurance.

Ann’s family were under the impression that their insurance plan would cover the cost of her six weeks in the hospital in Dubai, and the cost of repatriation of remains. However, the family later found out that these medical expenses incurred on holiday would not fall under their insurance policy. Stunned, the family was left to set up a crowd funding page in hopes of paying off their now staggering medical debt.

The Taylors’ story highlights the importance of holding the right insurance plan and understanding its benefits – when and where they can be used, and what services are excluded. This is especially true when it comes to people who travel often for work or pleasure. No one wants to be trapped in an unfamiliar health care setting abroad without assurance that it is possible to access and afford the best available quality of care.

Indeed, the government in Dubai is emphasizing the importance of health insurance for all with its new fund to cover hospital bills for those who can’t afford to pay them. The fund will go toward unexpected medical costs that haven’t been insured against; for example, emergency maternity care for a prematurely-born infant not yet on his mother’s health insurance policy.

This emergency fund from the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is yet another move by the government of Dubai to offer health coverage to every single person living and working in the Emirate. Health care reform by the DHA has already required since October, 2014 that all employers with more than 1,000 employees provide workplace-sponsored health insurance. In July 2015, the second phase of the health reform rollout extended that requirement to any company with more than 100 employees. Companies with a workforce smaller than 100 employees will be required to provide employer-sponsored coverage starting from June 2016, at which point spouses, dependent family members and domestic staff must also be covered.

The Dubai Health Authority is also requiring that by the end of June 2016, every visitor to Dubai must hold health insurance in order to qualify for a visa. The reason for this travel stipulation is that medical care in Dubai is of a high quality and treatment can be expensive. The Dubai health care system cannot afford to provide an abundance of services to travellers who find themselves unable to later pay the bills, and perhaps more importantly, the insurance requirement fits in with Dubai’s new focus on creating a society in which health care services are entirely covered.

Travellers should always hold a health insurance policy that can be used wherever they are in the world, whether or not they are visiting a country like Dubai in which insurance is required (or will be soon). At the same time, the Taylor family’s story provides an important warning that not all insurance policies are built equally – and sometimes a minimum amount of coverage just isn’t enough. For example, the Dubai government will be making inexpensive health insurance policies available for purchase at the airport so that visitors unaware of the new law can quickly purchase a policy and enter the country. However, these do not cover any care related to pre-existing or chronic conditions, so if a traveller experiences a medical emergency in any way related to an existing condition (an asthma attack, for example, or a fall related to an earlier injury) they will likely have to pay for the cost of that care out of pocket.

Instead of relying on one-off travel insurance policies, those who go abroad often should consider a global health care policy that can provide a range of benefits good for use anywhere in the world. It’s also essential to work with an expert insurance advisor to ensure that the policy purchased is adequate for individual health care and travel needs.  UAE Medical Insurance is such an advisor, and our agents are standing by to provide you with plan comparisons and price quotes from the world’s best insurance companies. Contact us today and our staff can provide you with answers to any questions you may have about an existing or new health insurance policy.


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Registered Office: PO Box 391195, Dubai, UAE