Healthcare in the UAE

Health insurance and the healthcare system in the UAE explained

The UAE is well-provided for with medical professionals and facilities in both the public and private healthcare systems. As an expat, you'll need to take out private health insurance. Get all the information you need to make an informed choice with our guide on the UAE’s medical system.

There are a well-established healthcare system and health insurance in the UAE. Recent reforms have made it obligatory for all employers to ensure their workforce has at least basic coverage and a range of insurance plans to choose from.

The private hospitals are usually regarded as the best hospitals, but both public and private healthcare are well respected. Some of the private hospitals can be very expensive, so it’s important to make sure your insurance policy is comprehensive.

With good services across the medical services, you should find everything you need in the UAE. For example, finding a doctor that speaks English is very easy. Giving birth is also well provided for, with just one caveat: it is illegal to be in a sexual relationship if you’re not married, and non-married expat women who become pregnant are best advised to leave the country to give birth.

How does healthcare work in the UAE?

  • The UAE has a well-developed healthcare system, with highly qualified personnel who speak several languages.
  • Your employer is obliged to provide you with health insurance, but you can still choose health insurance on your own if you’re not satisfied.
  • Keep in mind that all health insurance policies have exclusions. We list the most common cases for you.

Highly Developed and Highly Qualified — The Healthcare System

When you’re moving to the UAE, you shouldn’t worry about your health. The healthcare system is highly developed, has high standards, and is expanding even more to meet all needs of the residents of the Emirates. Make sure you’re up to date with your routine vaccinations before you leave for the UAE. Getting the vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid are particularly recommended.

The public and private healthcare services are regulated by the Ministry of Health, the Dubai Health Authority, and the Health Authority — Abu Dhabi. The private healthcare system provides very high-quality medical treatment and services, and has highly qualified personnel who speak several languages, so you won’t have trouble finding a doctor or specialist who speaks your language — or at least speaks English.

Usually, expats tend to make use of private healthcare so they can go to private clinics. However, the costs of private healthcare facilities can be rather high, so a good health insurance plan is a must.

Big Transformations Make Things Easier — Your Health Insurance Policy

Health insurance has only recently been made mandatory in all parts of the UAE, which is a big step for the whole country. Employers now have to provide their employees with health insurance; if they don’t, they can face serious fines. This new regulation has already gone into effect in Abu Dhabi. In Dubai, the last phase of this process will be completed in June 2016 — by then, companies with less than 100 employees must also have implemented this rule.

Once this big transformation has taken place, things should be easier for you. However, you should always check if the insurance policy that your employer offers is sufficient for you. Your employer is required to offer health insurance that meets the minimum requirements of the law — an annual premium of 500–700 AED and a maximum insurance cover of 150,000 AED. If you want a better insurance policy, or if you don’t have a job, you’ll have to choose one for yourself. Keep in mind that when you choose a policy by yourself, your employer doesn’t pay for that.

Of course it’s always difficult to find a good policy, so you have to think about which benefits you want to have included. Looking at hospital accommodation is also important — which type of room you’ll get if you’re hospitalized, the maximum amount your policy will cover for room and board, and which medical facilities (hospital network) are included in your plan. Always check what is and isn’t covered by your policy. Also, make sure you don’t purchase an overly expensive health insurance plan with unnecessary benefits included, but on the other hand, check that the one you do choose covers everything you need.

The most basic health insurance policy costs around 500 to 700 AED. This policy doesn’t only include access to a general practitioner, but also referrals to specialists, emergency services, maternity care, and some other services.

Keep Your Eyes Open for Common Exclusions

When you are asked about your medical history by the insurance company from which you want to take out an insurance policy, always answer honestly. If you forget to mention a condition you used to have, or a condition you have at the moment — a pre-existing condition — there is a big chance that the insurance company will void any claims you have made and will exclude all the benefits from your policy.

Another thing you should be aware of is that most insurance companies have waiting periods for making certain types of claims — mostly related to pre-existing conditions and maternity. This means that if you want to make a claim related to pregnancy, you need to have had your insurance policy for at least twelve months already. For pre-existing conditions and most dental services this period is six months.

Depending on your policy, not all costs will be covered when you’re hospitalized, like registration or admission charges, food and drinks, telephone calls, or internet usage. Other treatments or conditions that are normally not covered include plastic surgery, skin disorders, obesity, hearing loss, and vision aids. Lastly, certain hospitals and clinics may be excluded from your insurance policy.

Best private and public hospitals

  • Both public as well as private healthcare providers have high standards.
  • General practitioners are not found at single practices, but at medical centers, clinics, or hospitals.
  • Thanks to prevalent English-language skills and large numbers of expat medical staff, the language barrier should not pose a problem when seeking medical help in the UAE.

Healthcare Standards and Institutions

Thanks to ongoing investment in the healthcare system, standards are quite high in the UAE, both at public as well as at private medical institutions. The country has, in fact, set all its public surgeries and hospitals the goal of being fully compliant with international health standards prior to 2018, with private facilities supposed to follow by the end of 2019 at the latest. What is more, structural changes to various ministries that were announced in 2016 and that too affect the Ministry of Health — which will be renamed — envision the introduction of a new independent entity to oversee all public hospitals in the UAE.

The Bigger, the Better? Healthcare Cities and Hospitals in the UAE

In the big expat-hubs Abu Dhabi and Dubai, you can even find so-called healthcare cities, which incorporate one or more hospitals, a number of outpatient medical centers, labs, educational, research and specialist institutes, as well as employ thousands of healthcare professionals: the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC in Abu Dhabi) and the Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC). The latter is also a free economic zone, and as such welcomes many of the medical tourists that come to the UAE each year.

Next to these two healthcare cities, there are numerous hospitals to be found across the Emirates, both public and private.

Public hospitals in the UAE include, but are not limited to the following institutions:

  • Abu Dhabi: Al Mafraq Hospital and Madinat Zayed Hospital, as well as the General Hospital of the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City
  • Ajman: Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Hospital
  • Dubai: Rashid Hospital, Dubai Hospital, and Hatta Hospital
  • Fujairah: Al Fujairah Hospital
  • Sharjah: Al Qassimi Hospital
  • Ras al Khaimah: Saqr Hospital and Sham Hospital
  • Umm al Quwain: U.A.Q. Hospital

Similarly, there is a long list of private, general hospitals you can go to, provided your insurance covers their services:

  • Abu Dhabi: Ahalia Hospital, Al Salamah Hospital, Burjeel Hospital, Dar Al Shifaa Hospital, Hopital Franco-Emirien, Lifeline Hospital, NMC Specialty Hospital, and Oasis Hospital
  • Ajman: GMC Hospital Ajman and Ibin Sina Hospital
  • Dubai: American Hospital Dubai, Aster Hospital, Canadian Specialist Hospital, Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital, International Modern Hospital, Iranian Hospital (Red Crescent affiliate), Lifeline Hospital, Medcare Hospital Jumeirah, New Medical Center, and Zulekha Hospital Dubai
  • Fujairah: GMC Hospital Fujairah
  • Sharjah: Al Zahra Private Hospital, Central Private Hospital, GMC Hospital Sharjah, The Royal Hospital, University Hospital (teaching hospital), and Zulekha Hospital Sharjah
  • Ras al Khaimah: Al Zahrawi Hospital and RAK Hospital
  • Umm al Quwain: Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital

Family Doctors and Specialist Referrals

In contrast to many other countries, general practitioners in the UAE do not work from their own practices, but are instead found at so-called medical clinics or centers, or are directly affiliated with hospitals. When it comes to seeing a specialist, a referral from your GP is not always necessary (depending on your insurer), but highly recommended. Your doctor will, after all, best be able to point you in the right direction.

Finding the Right Doctor or Hospital

Due to the high percentage of expatriates living in the UAE in general and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in particular — estimates for example quote over 80% of foreign residents in the latter emirate — chances are you will not have any trouble finding English-speaking staff at most medical facilities. Even if you prefer your doctor to speak another language altogether you may be in luck: As the number of local medical personal does not manage to cover the demand, many healthcare professionals are expats themselves, hailing from around the globe.

Your colleagues and friends may be able to personally recommend someone suitable. Alternatively, check if your embassy/consulate provides a list of doctors who speak your native tongue and make sure to check with your respective health insurance provider which facilities are covered by your policy.

On the websites of the respective regulating bodies in the UAE, as well as the public insurance provider Daman, you can also search for hospitals and doctors in the UAE:

Next to the usual filter options according to location and medical specialty, in some cases the results can be further narrowed down based on the practitioners’ nationality or language skills, for example.

Giving birth in the UAE

  • Having contacts with experience is important when making important choices about your pregnancy.
  • Make sure you have health insurance, so you can enjoy maternity benefits.
  • Know which rights you have regarding maternity leave and getting paid during this time.
  • All the paperwork isn’t the most fun part, but it has to be taken care of as soon as possible.

Something that is good to keep in mind — because in many countries this isn’t an actual problem — is that in the UAE you have to be married when you’re planning on having a baby. Not being married and giving birth can cause some serious problems during the nine months and the period after delivery. There are several occasions where you’ll have to show your marriage certificate, starting with the first check-up in the hospital. Also, giving birth at home is something that’s not possible.

Benefit from the Experiences of Other Women

Having contact with women who already gave birth in the UAE is something very important for making the right choices. They can give you the best advice on which hospital is the best to give birth in. Always keep in mind that there are some differences between the government and private hospitals.

If you choose to use government healthcare for prenatal care and delivery, you should keep in mind that government hospitals have Islamic customs and that it is possible that your husband will not  be allowed to accompany you in the pre-labor room and/or for the actual birth. It’s also likely that you’ll have a different doctor at each appointment, including the actual delivery.

Private hospitals allow you to have a more personal experience. At these hospitals you can choose a prenatal package, which includes all routine tests and ultrasound scans. Another thing they can help you with is finding a gynecologist, obstetrician, and a midwife.

Making Use of Maternity Benefits — Watch Out for Pitfalls

Keep in mind that you need an insurance policy for at least twelve months before you get pregnant. If you are already pregnant when you take out insurance, you will not be able to make use of the maternity benefits you’re looking for. If you’re in this situation, you can always choose a hospital that offers maternity packages.

In general, all insurance policies include some sort of maternity benefits or packages. However, the benefits can vary per policy — from the actual delivery to prenatal care and newborn care. Also, you should pay attention to the limit of your insurance policy, so you have a general idea of how much everything altogether will cost.

Do you need more information? We have an article that explains everything about health insurance in the UAE.

Taking Your Well-Needed Rest — Maternity Leave

According to the UAE Labor Law, a woman is entitled to 45 days of full paid maternity leave — including the period before and after the delivery — if she has worked for her current employer for at least one year. If that’s not the case, she’s entitled to only half the period of paid leave. After the 45 days, the maternity leave can be extended by a maximum of ten days without pay.

During the 18 months after childbirth, a woman has the right to have two daily breaks of a maximum of 30 minutes each for the purpose of nursing her child. These breaks are considered part of the working hours and will therefore be paid.

Taking Care of the Paperwork

There are several documents you have to apply for when your baby is born.

The Birth Certificate

The birth certificate is the first thing you have to take care of. But you don’t have to rush to get it immediately — the maximum period of time you have to register your child in the UAE is 30 days. The hospital where your baby is born will give you a birth notification. With this notification you can apply for the birth certificate. The place where you have to apply and the documents you have to bring are different in each emirate, so make sure to check the exact procedure in your emirate. In general, in addition to the birth certificate, you have to bring the following documents:

  • the valid passports of both parents
  • the Emirate IDs of both parents
  • the UAE residence visas of both parents
  • the original marriage certificate

The fee for a birth certificate is 50 AED. Don’t forget to get the birth certificate attested after you’ve received it.

The Passport

The next thing you need for your newborn is a passport. For this, you have to pay a visit to your embassy in the UAE. In general, you have to bring the following documents:

  • a copy of the birth certificate
  • the valid passports of both parents
  • some passport-sized photos of the baby

Always check with your embassy which documents you have to bring, as this can vary. Many embassies also require the original marriage contract of the parents.

The Emirates ID Card

With the passport, you can apply for an Emirates ID card. You can get this at the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA).

You’ll have to submit the following documents on the EIDA website or at a typing center in your area:

  • the original birth certificate
  • the Emirates ID card of one parent
  • the original passport of one parent
  • the original passport of the baby

The costs for an ID card are 100 AED per year and 70 AED for the typing center services. After the payment of the fees, you’ll receive a message stating where you can register for the ID card — this will be at one of the service centers. There you have to submit the typing center receipt with a valid passport and complete the registration procedures. You will then receive a message when you can collect the Emirates ID card.

The Residence Visa

The very last thing your newborn needs is a residence visa for the UAE. You can find more information about this process in our article about obtaining residence visas for family members in the UAE.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
11 February 2019