Expats cannot afford to bring elderly parents to UAE

Many expats say they would like to bring their elderly parents to live in the UAE but cannot afford the exorbitant cost of health insurance.
An elderly patient at Provita International Medical Centre in Khalifa City. Aged care is a major challenge. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
An elderly patient at Provita International Medical Centre in Khalifa City. Aged care is a major challenge. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // The fear of expensive medical bills is discouraging many expatriates from sponsoring their parents.

Even though companies frequently offer medical insurance for employees’ spouses and children, parents are not considered part of the immediate family and are not covered.

Dr Asjad Hameed, a medical consultant in Abu Dhabi, says insurers charge a lot of money for elderly expatriates because they expect a lot of medical complaints.

“Insurance companies waste no time in doubling the premium,” he says.

Raza Ahmed, a Pakistani banker who lives in Dubai, wants to bring his parents here, but cannot afford it. He moved from Karachi three years ago, leaving his elderly parents behind.

“In the first two years, things were somehow managed. But now my parents’ health is deteriorating and I don’t want them to live alone,” he says.

“I thought sponsoring parents wouldn’t be so much of a problem as I fall into the category that can sponsor parents.”

However, when he looked at the cost of medical insurance he realised the extent of his problem.

According to Mr Ahmed, the cheapest option that Daman offers is the Care Bronze Card for people over 65 years of age.

“The customer service person told me that each senior person’s medical insurance would cost Dh27,000, which means I have to pay Dh54,000 every year from my pocket, which isn’t an affordable option,” he says. Mr Ahmed checked almost all other medical insurance in the country but either they refused to provide insurance to expatriates above the age of 60 or started quoting exorbitant prices.

Mr Ahmed says insurers should deem parents immediate family.

“The UAE is a traditional, family-orientated country. We realise the importance of parents in our lives,” he said.

“We cannot leave them all alone especially when there is no one to care of them.”

However, Naqi Shahid, an Indian who lives in Abu Dhabi, said he found affordable insurance for his father. He brought his surviving parent to the UAE five years ago.

“In the first year, my company gave me the medical insurance for my father. But afterwards, it refused to continue as he does not qualify as immediate member,” he said.

Mr Shahid said he was surprised when Daman offered affordable insurance for his father.

“The premium plan is a basic card and does not cover him comprehensively. But at least it covers emergencies and other basic and regular medical care,” he said.

Another challenge for expatriates is home nursing care.

“Unfortunately, not many of the insurance companies cover home nursing in Dubai,” said Clodagh Withington, commercial manager at Emirates Home Nursing, a private health centre in Dubai that provides senior care at home.

“As a result, many of those who need our help are not able to afford to pay for it.”

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

Published: February 8, 2015 04:00 AM

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