UAE health minister to consider plan for Covid-19 testing cost to be covered by insurance

Abdulrahman Al Owais agrees to look into the proposal during a meeting of the Federal National Council

The UAE's health minister has pledged to consider a proposal for the cost of Covid-19 testing to be covered through health insurance.

Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, was urged to help ease the financial burden on those members of the public who regularly have screenings, many for work and travel purposes.

Federal National Council member Hamad Al Rahoomi raised the issue during the latest meeting of the consultative body on Tuesday.

PCR tests are required to travel to Abu Dhabi from other emirates as well as for trips abroad, while regular testing is a requirement for many employees.

“We are already suffering from financial burdens because of the disease, and we find ourselves obliged to take tests regularly for many procedures,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.

Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, at the council session on Tuesday. Courtesy: Federal National Council
Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, at the council session on Tuesday. Courtesy: Federal National Council

“Many people and businesses have suffered due to the pandemic, and on top of that they are being burdened by the costs of tests.”

He gave the example of a family who had to pay Dh3,000 ($817) for Covid-19 tests in one month after a member tested positive.

“And if a business owner had a positive case at the workplace, he would have to close for some time and test all of his employees,” he said.

The cost of a PCR test is capped at Dh150 at government-run hospitals in Dubai and has been reduced to Dh65 in Abu Dhabi.

A PCR test was typically priced at Dh370 in the early stages of the pandemic but has been cut significantly since.

Costs can still mount for those who are tested frequently, however, leading the FNC member to call for support.

“There is an essential need for insurance coverage. People have been paying from their pockets,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.

He said the government had been “more than generous and paid billions" of dirhams to secure treatment and free tests when necessary, but there needed to be regulations in place to ensure costs were covered by health insurance.

Mr Al Owais said free testing remained available across the Emirates.

Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) offers free tests at its national screening centres to those showing symptoms, Emiratis, residents over 50 and those suffering from chronic diseases, pregnant women and people with disabilities.

Mr Al Owais said the government continued to provide free treatment for all Covid-19 patients.

“And when there aren’t enough beds at public hospitals, we transfer the patient to a private hospital, and the government covers the cost,” he said.

In response to Mr Al Rahoomi’s insurance coverage proposal, he said a new federal health insurance law was still being developed and promised to take the member’s suggestions into consideration.

Mr Al Owais said health care “will be different after coronavirus” and told the council there would be “healthcare breakthroughs and excellent quality of services” to come.

Updated: June 8, 2021 10:12 PM

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