All health insurance cards to be accepted by federal hospitals in 2017

Ministry of Health to introduce scheme next year, which experts say will open a greater choice of facilities to patients.

From 2017, all health insurance cards will be accepted at federal hospitals. Silvia Razgova / The National
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DUBAI // All health insurance cards will be accepted by Ministry of Health hospitals from next year.

Up until now, federal hospitals were reserved for Emirati patients only, except in emergency cases or if an expatriate was willing to pay up front.

Insurance cards were accepted only at Al Baraha Hospital in Dubai and Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah.

But from next year that will change, with a gradual implementation already under way at all 15 MoH health facilities in Dubai and Fujairah – the two emirates where the system is being trialled first.

More than 500 employees working in the hospitals are being trained in the concept of health insurance and the billing mechanism for accepting health cards when they are presented by patients.

An electronic collection system currently in place is linked to the Wareed system, where the medical billing company gets data about the patient’s medical costs and makes claims direct to insurers.

Stephen MacLaren, of insurance broker Al Futtaim Willis, said it was good news for patients, particularly those living in remote areas.

“It is good for the medical market as there are some really good doctors working in the government sector,” he said.

“Some of the more remote areas don’t have as much choice as elsewhere.

“Dubai is oversupplied but that isn’t the case in the Northern Emirates, so this will open up other facilities to people who have insurance, increasing their accessibility.”

The MoH will accept patients insured by companies with which it has no contract, provided they obtain a guarantee of payment of the medical costs from these companies.

“This idea – to bring more medical facilities within the insurance model – was discussed some time ago,” Mr MacLaren said. “It is good for the industry because we know the medical doctors working at Ministry of Health facilities are not going to be using methods we have seen in the private sector, which led to fraudulent claims, overprescribing and misuse of the system.

“They will be acting in the best interest of the patient, so that has to be a plus point for the industry as a whole.”

In Dubai, all employees must now have insurance in place from their employer under the mandatory scheme, although a grace period on prosecutions is in place until the end of the year. Abu Dhabi has had mandatory health insurance for some time but the Northern Emirates is still awaiting a law on it to be passed.