Health Insurance Risk

Health Insurance is mandatory for all expats living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, the mandatory nature of the schemes has a significant, often overlooked health insurance risk…

One of the benefits of both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai schemes is that pre-existing conditions must be covered. Historically insurers would exclude pre-existing conditions, especially where they are chronic (incurable). This enabled them to offer all people of the same age wanting the same type of cover for the same premium.

The Dubai and Abu Dhabi schemes prevent insurers from excluding pre-existing conditions nor are they allowed to refuse cover. This leads insurers to quote huge premiums where pre-existing conditions existed. This had the same effect as refusing cover, except the applicant declines the cover rather than the insurer declining the applicant.

The Health Insurance Risk

So, what is health insurance risk? Many employers provide coverage for their employee’s spouse and children whilst they are UAE residents. However, some do not or the terms of acceptance may be different. It is the responsibility of the sponsor to provide health insurance to at least the mandatory level, see here for details. There is no requirement for the employer to provide cover for employees’ spouses and children.

The risk is that if your children or spouse have pre-existing conditions, the cost of insuring them in the absence of a workplace scheme could be tens of thousands of dirhams every year. Common pre-existing conditions are asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes and epilepsy.


My recommendation for anyone who is:

  1. Thinking of starting their own business
  2. Joining a small company (with less than 50 employees), or
  3. Joining a firm which does not provide cover for dependents

is to apply for medical insurance before you hand in your resignation letter. The cost of medical insurance will be known once medical underwriting has been completed.

So far this year, I have seen several cases where this was not done and annual premiums of AED150,000 have been quoted by the insurer for very basic cover despite the pre-existing conditions being managed. This is a major health insurance risk which most people are unaware of or do not realise the implications of.

For more information on medical insurance and related matters contact me.


Stuart Porter - Expat Financial Advisor UAE
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