The economy in the United Arab Emirates is rather different to that experienced in the West. Most critically, the lack of income tax has an impact on what government services are offered for free. Of these, health care has long been a hotly contested subject. In most cases, health insurance is considered mandatory and is most commonly provided by employers to their staff.
Now, however, a study suggests that this employer-provided health care may not be living up to expectations. According to the recent YouGov poll, almost a third of expatriate workers complain than there are some basic medical services not included in standard health insurance policies.
The problems with these standard policies can mean that even with medical insurance expats end up being saddled with sizeable medical bills. In some cases expats are struggling to meet their financial obligations thanks to the high cost of medical care in the UAE. In others, expats are trying to forego medical care while expatriated in the Kingdom, waiting instead to see their own medical practitioner on a visit home. In many cases travelling home for medical care can be much cheaper, despite the inconveniences thereof.
So what are the services that most expats claim are lacking? The most common problem cited is that employer-funded medical care very rarely includes dental surgery. Thanks to costs of visiting a dentist – and the possible pain that delayed treatment can cause – an amazing 53% of survey respondents would like to see dental care included.
This is far from the only exception experienced by hard working expats. 17% of those surveyed said they would like full optical care included. While eye tests themselves are frequently included, the costs of spectacles or contact lenses typically aren’t, and can be very expensive in the UAE.
Lastly 13% of expats point out that their insurance typically only covers them for “emergency” level treatment. More preventative treatments such as regular health check-ups are rarely included.
Just as worrying, 25% of those who have had to make a claim on their state-obliged health insurance policy claim to have had problems with the claims process itself, often delaying reimbursement or leaving them out of pocket altogether for otherwise standard procedures.
The current message from YouGov seems clear; while the standards of medical care in the UAE are high, the inefficiencies of employer-funded health insurance policies makes them altogether less tempting. Expats heading to the UAE in the near future are therefore strongly advised to seek alternative health insurance. Right now, seeking full expatriate health insurance from an independent provider is arguably the best way to ensure you receive the medical care you need.