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Health Insurance in Dubai: The Expat Healthcare Guide

If you’re moving to Dubai then its critical that you fully understand how the healthcare system works. Read on for our complete guide to health insurance in Dubai…

DubaiDubai is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world.

It is estimated that at present the population of Dubai stands at 9.2 million people, with 7.8 million of those being foreign-born workers.

That means that almost 90% of the population in Dubai is expats.

Unsurprisingly, as expat numbers have begun to swell, so the cost implications of medical care have also begun to spiral.

This is especially so in a country known for its extreme summer heat, which may be felt in the form of heatstroke, dehydration and sunburn.

Over the years expat healthcare in Dubai has therefore changed considerably.

These days it is critical that expats and travellers alike fully understand health insurance in Dubai if they are to receive the care they need. This is especially so when you consider the cost of care in the UAE.

Dubai Healthcare at a Glance

These days Dubai offers internationally-renowned hospitals which provide state-of-the-art facilities, but at a cost. Many of the better-known hospitals are impressive buildings in their own right, more-closely resembling spotlessly-clean hotels than medical establishments.

Of course all this luxury comes at a cost; and it is for this reason that expatriate medical insurance should be considered by visitors; anyone expecting to pay out of pocket or “risk it” and assume all will be fine with their health could be in for a nasty surprise.

In general life expectancies in Dubai are comparable with the United Kingdom and other Western nations, which reflects the high standards of care to be expected here. The only caveat to be aware of is that some more specialist treatment may require care in another country.

While hospitals in Dubai provide either free or significantly subsidized care to locals, expats are unlikely to benefit from these services. Instead you will need to rely on one of two types of health insurance in Dubai.

Public Health Insurance in Dubai

Due to the growing costs of providing health services for expats, the local government is slowly introducing mandatory health insurance for all employees. At the time of writing this has yet to cover all expat workers, however this is promised in the coming months.

The insurance provided grants discounted healthcare at public facilities, though be aware that the levels of care covered by many employer-provided policies is meagre at best. Many will omit services which many consider essential – such as dental care or cover for family members.

If you are lucky enough to be offered such a policy, therefore, be certain to check the fine print so that you understand fully what is and is not covered by your policy. Also, you may need to keep a healthy balance in your bank account in order to cover dental work if and when required; remember that the UAE is a “no debt” country so relying on credit cards is generally not the best options.

Furthermore it is important to keep your health insurance card with you at all times to prove coverage, lest treatment should be needed at short notice.

Private Health Insurance in Dubai

DubaiAs an alternative to public health insurance many expats opt for private medical insurance.

Such policies normally offer greater levels of cover and a range of services not covered by the state-run system.

That said, be aware that individuals with private health insurance in Dubai will often be turned away from public facilities. As a result, should you opt for such a policy it makes sense to take note of your local private hospital so you know who to contact in the case of an emergency.

Short-term visitors to Dubai should not rely on paying out-of-pocket for medical care, which can be very expensive. Instead, travellers should also investigate options for private health insurance in order to ensure affordable and timely standards of care.

Increasingly some form of health insurance – whether that’s through an employer or purchased privately – is a pre-requisite before you are granted a visa to enter the country so be sure to do your research in plenty of time before your arrival.

Prescriptions on Dubai

Visitors and expats alike should be aware that prescriptions in Dubai may be rather different to what you are used to. Firstly, some of the drugs you may be familiar with may be difficult to encounter in Dubai, while some may be banned altogether.

For example, as in many other Gulf States, sleeping pills and anti-depressants are generally banned in all but the most extreme cases, and a letter from your own doctor may be required before you are prescribed any.

On the other hand, there are plenty of pharmacies in Dubai and many of them are open 24 hours a day, so if you have a prescription you should have no problems accessing your medication. Like other parts of the UAE healthcare system, however, prescription medications can be expensive in Dubai so plan ahead.

Visitors are allowed to bring up to three months-worth of prescription drugs with them, while residents can being up to a year’s supply with them. Note that the original prescription and/or a letter from your doctor may be required to prove their authenticity and that they are purely intended for personal consumption.

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