Health insurance models vary from country to country. As highlighted in our first series of articles on international health markets, governments often dictate the role of private and public health insurance within any country. Milliman has produced a new series of blogs focused on the medical underwriting and risk adjustment practices of eight countries: Australia, Ghana, Ireland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, and United Arab Emirates. This is the eighth article in our series.
Background to healthcare in the Middle East
The Middle East is going through rapid health reform with the transformation of a historical publicly funded health system into a hybrid public-private insurance model. The governments in these countries are facilitating the development of the provider community through the legislation of compulsory health insurance coverage, thus shifting the onus of the development of healthcare from the public sector to a public-private partnership, with the help of the private provider community and insurance industry.
Though no more than 10% of the population of any one Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country is currently covered by insurance, this is expected to change quickly. Workers covered under these plans can choose care at either public or private institutions, a system that has the benefit of ensuring that public providers must learn to generate claims in order to be reimbursed by the government. Once private health insurance takes hold, patient volumes for private providers will rapidly increase, as patients are allowed to pursue reimbursed care at private institutions.
Depending on the country, the health insurance opportunity could either be to enter as a stand-alone private player, or to form a joint venture with the government to establish and manage a national insurer.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
UAE is a typical hybrid public-private insurance model. By regulation, UAE nationals and citizens of other GCC countries receive free inpatient and outpatient healthcare at government hospitals and clinics, fully funded by the state. However, UAE nationals can also opt to purchase private medical insurance coverage through state-subsidized premiums.
The leading health insurance company in Abu Dhabi is Daman National Health Insurance Company, owned by the government, offering health insurance to expatriates and their families. Daman commenced writing business on May 1, 2006, and has a cooperation agreement with Munich Re, which provides reinsurance and direct underwriting and claims expertise. Daman will provide insurance services for all government expatriate employees for a period of 10 years from July 1, 2006.
Daman also provides private medical insurance for all UAE nationals through its Thiqa plan. As of April 2009 there were about 500,000 members in the Thiqa plan. Members receive a Thiqa card with which they can obtain private medical treatment within the Daman preferred provider network, subject only to on-the-spot cash payment at the clinic or hospital by the individual in respect of member coinsurance. Otherwise the services are paid for directly by Daman, subject to production of the Thiqa card at clinics and hospitals.
A change to the Thiqa plan was announced in 2009 by Daman, which introduced a 50% coinsurance payment for all dental treatment and for pharmaceuticals sourced in the private sector. Pharmaceuticals sourced in the public sector remain free of charge for all UAE nationals. Salamat, an extended plan similar to Thiqa, is now also available for UAE nationals, providing medical expenses coverage on an optional regional or worldwide basis.
Resident expatriates, who received free healthcare in the past, now have to pay for treatment at government medical facilities, albeit at a subsidized rate. However, compulsory health insurance for expatriates is now fully implemented in Abu Dhabi, under Law No 23 of 2005.
The standard compulsory health policy for expatriates and their families resident in Abu Dhabi covers the employee, spouse, and up to three dependent children under the age of 18. The onus to purchase compulsory insurance for expatriate employees and their families lies with the employer. No expatriate work permits are issued or renewed without proof of insurance and proof of premium payment. The scheme has been a success, with the insured population exceeding 1 million in 2009.