Dubai residents concerned over mandatory health insurance
Calls for reasonable premiums as Dubai residents scramble ahead of deadline
Confusion, costly premiums and a deadline that is fast approaching for mandatory health insurance have sent Dubai visa holders scrambling for last-minute decisions.
As announced earlier by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), individuals, their dependents and company workers all have to be medically insured by December 31 failing which they will not be able to renew their residence visas unless they pay backdated fines of Dh500 per person for the number of months they did not have coverage. In June, the DHA had announced a six-month grace period which expires on December 31.
A number of insurance companies said on Wednesday that they were attending to up to 500 customers a day looking for suitable premiums. "We are uploading at least 5,000 policies per day and we have started issuing token numbers to customers which has never happened before," said an official from an insurance company on condition of anonymity.
"People have again waited till the last minute.they were probably thinking that the authorities are not serious about the issue," he said.
However, a number of residents who did not qualify for the DHA's Essential Benefits Package (EBP), specially designed for those earning less than Dh4,000, voiced concern over the high premium rates they had to pay for unmarried females of child bearing age as well as the elderly. Many others cited premiums as high as Dh10,000-40,000 annually for senior citizens aged 60 and above.
In a letter written to Khaleej Times, a reader said, "Senior citizens are searching for 'reasonable' cost medical cover while insurance companies are either not taking high-risk group or charging fat premium rates.
"As such, people above 65 years of age are facing a paradox of either paying high premiums or returning to their home countries where there might be no one to take care of them - if insurance is refused," he wrote.
"Health insurance premium for the elderly is as high as Dh30,000 to Dh40,000. And on top of this, normally the waiting period to get insurance benefits for pre-existing diseases range from two to three years," he wrote, requesting the DHA to extend the deadline for securing a health insurance policy for the elderly to avoid fines and penalties.
An insurance company official told Khaleej Times that insurance operated upon risks, hence the premiums for the elderly had to be high.
Quotations sent to a Dubai resident seeking a policy for his elderly mother by MetLife Insurance company showed that the annual premium was Dh11,361 (age 56-80) and Dh14,525 (age 80 and above), irrespective of the salary.
Checking with different insurance companies, Syrian expat Mustafa Khalid said he got different rates. "The least rate I got after a tiring negotiation is Dh1,300, and the same for my non-working wife, while my two kids will be insured against Dh1,800 and Dh900."
Fadi Al Zatreh, a self-employed Jordanian resident, said he cannot afford insuring himself and his five children. "Insurance companies are exploiting customers though they announced to be charging less."
Pakistani expat Mohammed Nasser said he had cancelled the visa of his wife and two children in Dubai. "I had to send my family home as I cannot afford to pay all the money I save every year to buy health insurance."
Iraqi engineer Essam Fawzi said he had recently renewed the residency visas of his wife and two daughters but they are back in Iraq for five months and will come only for a short holiday in January. "Why should I insure them while they are not here."
Dr Mohamed Ashmawy said the pressing demand has encouraged some insurance companies to exploit the customers and charge higher rates. "I would recommend another grace period to ease people's suffering, particularly those with low salaries."
Dr Haider Al Yousaf, director of health funding, in an earlier interview made it clear, "Unfortunately, people wait for strict action to be taken before following laws and regulations. and this time we are not extending the deadline."
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