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Healthcare in the UAE
Health Insurance and the Healthcare System in the UAE Explained
The UAE is renowned for its quality healthcare facilities, which has led to a rise in medical tourism over the past decade. Healthcare is so prevalent, there are an estimated 181 doctors per 100,000 residents. However, while expats benefit from the high medical standards in the Gulf country, healthcare for non-residents comes with a steeper price tag than it does for UAE nationals.
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Before you relocate, one of the first things you should know is what the healthcare system and health insurance is like in the UAE. Expats will be happy to know that, when moving to the Gulf country, quality of healthcare is one aspect they need not worry about.
The UAE has a highly developed health infrastructure and the standard of healthcare is high. In 2018, the UAE was ranked one of the Top 10 most efficient healthcare systems in the world. Medical facilities are modern and easily accessible for both locals and expats alike. Both public and private hospitals offer premium healthcare. However, many expats prefer private care, where English is commonly spoken and most of the medical staff are foreign doctors or foreign-trained.
When it comes to cost, medical services in the UAE are expensive, but you get what you pay for. For UAE nationals, public hospitals and clinics are low-cost-to-free. Expats must pay a fee and can only access the public hospitals and clinics if they have a health card. Finding a doctor is largely done through online portals and giving birth is easy, but you must be married.
With ultra-modern equipment and highly-skilled doctors and surgeons from around the globe, you can rest assured your medical needs in the desert country will be well taken care of. As you prepare for your journey, use this guide as a UAE healthcare system overview to answer any questions you may have.
How Healthcare Works in the UAE
The UAE has a comprehensive, government-funded healthcare system and a rapidly developing private sector that delivers a high standard of care. Healthcare is regulated at both the Federal and Emirate level.
The healthcare system in the UAE varies from emirate to emirate, but the care you will receive throughout the country is top-notch. Expats are able to take advantage of both public and private facilities. However, where Emirati nationals receive treatment at public facilities and clinics at a low cost, and sometimes free, expats will have to pay a fee.
UAE Healthcare Facts
- Of the seven emirates, Abu Dhabi and Dubai attract the most expats. In these emirate states, healthcare is of especially high quality. Dubai, specifically, is known for its high-standards of medical procedures and excellent facilities. Foreigners from around the globe flock to the city-state for treatment—a travel trend referred to as “medical tourism.” In 2016, Dubai received 326,649 medical tourists. This number is predicted to exceed 500,000 by the end of 2020.
- The most sought after medical and health specialties are orthopedic, dermatology, and ophthalmology. Dubai is also well-known for cosmetic, dental, and fertility treatments.
- Private healthcare facilities currently outnumber public ones.
- In Abu Dhabi, it is mandatory that your company provide health insurance for you and your dependents. Dependents include one spouse and up to three children under the age of 18. Health insurance coverage for a fourth child is the responsibility of the employee.
- In Dubai, companies only need to provide coverage for employees. It is recommended by the Dubai government that they provide coverage for employees’ families as well as healthcare coverage is required by law.
- Whether you have a job or not, it is mandatory for all residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi to have health insurance. As of 2015, fines of 500 AED per month (136 USD) are charged for every uninsured month. Residency visas cannot be issued without proof of health insurance, so this is not a problem expats will easily face.
- In the northern emirates of Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Umm Al-Quwain, it is not mandatory for employers to provide health insurance to the employees.
- If your company does not provide health insurance, or if your company does not cover dependents, it is up to you to sponsor their coverage. Read more below.
Does the UAE Have Free Public Healthcare?
Public healthcare services are administered by different regulatory authorities throughout the UAE: the Ministry of Health and Prevention, Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), and the Emirates Health Authority (EHA).
As stated earlier, the UAE has free public healthcare for Emirati nationals. Non-residents will have to pay significantly higher fees for treatment at a hospital or clinic. However, these costs are subsidized and the standard of care is high at both a public and private facility.
What does the UAE Public Healthcare Cover?
Like everything else, what public healthcare covers in the UAE differs between each emirate. In general, public healthcare covers the following basic health needs:
- maternity services
- basic health care services (general examinations, diagnostic and treatment services by general practitioners, specialists, and consultants; laboratory services; radiology diagnostic services; physiotherapy services; prescribed drugs and other medicines)
- preventive services (essential vaccinations and immunizations for children and newborns)
Things that are excluded:
- dental and gum exams
- hearing and vision aids
- vision correction by surgery or laser
In some cases, public healthcare can also apply to physiotherapy, maternity follow-ups, and surgical operations.
For more information, see Appendix A in this guide.
How does Healthcare Work in the UAE?
While the healthcare system in the UAE is fairly straightforward, there are some nuances that expats should be aware of.
Essential Benefits Plan
If your employer does not provide healthcare for you or your dependents, you can either take on a private healthcare plan or opt for the Essential Benefits Plan (EBP). The EBP provides the same coverage as the UAE public healthcare. It is only available to individuals who earn less than 4,000 AED per month (1,090 USD).
If you employ domestic workers, you will need to provide healthcare for them. Most expats choose to use EBP. The EBP costs between 550 and 650 AED per year (150–175 USD).
To provide better healthcare services and to ease access to health facilities, the UAE has opened healthcare cities. These are complexes comprised of clinics of various specialties. Presently, there are three healthcare cities in the UAE:
- Sheikh Khalifa Medical City
- Dubai Healthcare City
- Sharjah Healthcare City
UAE Healthcare Costs
The extent of coverage for employers and their dependents is determined by the employee’s salary and designation. The extent of coverage and type of policy/scheme will determine the cost of your medical services.
The UAE Healthcare System Pros and Cons
Why is Healthcare so Expensive in the UAE?
Healthcare in the UAE is expensive for a multitude of reasons. The first reason being expats: the population of the UAE is made up overwhelmingly by more expats than Emirati nationals. Because of this, there are more private hospitals and healthcare facilities than public. As of 2018, the UAE had 104 hospitals: 33 government and 71 private.
|Emirate||Number of Government Hospitals||Number of Private Hospitals|
|Ras Al Khaimah||4||1|
|Umm Al Quwain||1||0|
Another reason healthcare is so expensive in the UAE is that residents generally forgo visiting a general practitioner and instead see specialists straightaway. This leads to increased medical costs as specialists must run multiple tests and consultations.
Lastly, healthcare in the UAE is costly because you get what you pay for: optimal medical treatment. The UAE is, not only known for highly-trained physicians and modern medical equipment, but innovative research as well. These medical advances and state-of-the-art equipment come with a high price tag, but also care that will seldom disappoint.
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An Overview of Private Health Insurance
As healthcare coverage is mandatory in the UAE, you will need to know how health insurance works throughout the emirate states. If your employer does not provide private health insurance, you will need to know how to get health insurance in the UAE and
how much the health insurance costs. Although private health insurance throughout the UAE is expensive, the care provided is high quality. Insurance policies typically cover a wide range of services and treatments.
Do You Need Health Insurance in the UAE?
Yes. You cannot receive a UAE residency visa without proof of health insurance. Unlike Emirati nationals, expats must pay for both private and public health insurance in the UAE.
- Abu Dhabi: Employers are required to provide health insurance coverage for their employees as well as four dependents (one spouse and up to three children under the age of 18; expats with four or more children will have to take on their coverage themselves).
- Dubai: Employers must provide medical insurance to their employees, but they are not required to cover dependents.
- Sharjah and Northern Emirates: Employers are not required to provide medical insurance for their employees.
The UAE Health Card
In Dubai, if your employer, or your spouse’s employer, does not offer health insurance coverage, you must apply for a health card. The health card offers basic health care coverage similar to what Emirati nationals receive through public healthcare.
Expats wishing to take advantage of public hospitals and clinics must have a health card, so even if you are covered by private health insurance, it is wise to apply for the health card. Private policies may not cover every treatment, and, in some cases, it may be cheaper to go to a government hospital or clinic.
Health Card Fees
|0–9 years||100 AED (27 USD)|
|10–17 years||200 AED (54 USD)|
|18 years+||300 AED (82 USD)|
Requirements to Obtain a UAE Health Card
- passport copy
- covering letter from a sponsor
- visa application copy
- two passport size photographs
- completed application form
For expats in Dubai, you can learn more about this card here.
Types of Health Insurance Plans
Health insurance plans in the UAE are fairly standard when compared with countries in Europe or North America. Most private insurance providers offer four main types of health insurance plans that cover everyone from the solo expat to the relocated family:
- individual plans: for a single person or family group looking for a comprehensive UAE medical insurance
- family plan: these plans can provide great value with qualifying family discounts
- group plans: significant discounts and other extended benefits are possible for policies with more than 20 members
- traveler plans: for individuals and groups who travel to the UAE frequently; these plans typically offer a high level of flexibility and can be tailored according to your travel itinerary
Average Health Insurance Cost in the UAE
Most companies in the UAE include health insurance as part of their salary package. However, this is not always the case. For a reasonably comprehensive medical insurance policy you can expect to pay around 10,000 AED per year (2,720 USD). Insurance premiums range from around 5,500 AED per year (1,500 USD) for a thirty-year-old expat on a comprehensive plan to around 33,500 AED (9,120 USD) for a family of four on a comprehensive plan. A basic coverage plan for a family of four should be around 17,000 AED (4,630 USD).
How to Find a Doctor or Dentist
One of the best ways to find a doctor or dentist in the UAE is to go online. The UAE government website lists resources for finding a doctor. Expats who want to know how to find a specialist can also use the portals through their own private insurance companies.
Some specialist doctors fly into the UAE only to perform certain procedures. Expats interested in searching for these specialists can search here.
Expats looking for a doctor in Dubai can use Dubai Healthcare City listings to search for providers. You can even make an appointment online through this portal.
Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah
Ministry of Health and Prevention website offers an online search tool for professional doctors in the Northern Emirates of the UAE.
Average Wait Time to See a Doctor in the UAE
Because quality healthcare is so common throughout the UAE, one of the main differences setting public and private healthcare apart is wait times. Although you will wait longer to see a doctor at a public hospital, the overall average of time spent seeing a doctor in Dubai (including the time from check-in to leaving the hospital) is 79 minutes.
Be advised that while wait times within UAE hospitals are not horrendous, the time to find a doctor could be. Because of the country’s popularity among medical tourists, especially popular doctors can have waitlists in order to take on new patients. Be sure to do your research beforehand and have a list of viable physicians.
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Giving Birth in the UAE
For some expats, you may be wondering what it is like giving birth in the UAE as a non-resident. Luckily, you can rest assured that given the country’s high standards for healthcare and advanced medical equipment, giving birth in the Gulf country is worry-free.
Steps for Having a Baby in the UAE as a Foreigner
Step One: Be Married
This may seem like an outdated step, but keep in mind the traditional rules and laws governing the UAE. Although the business and medical sector are uber-progressive and modernized, the emirate states are still deeply rooted in tradition and the Islamic faith. It is illegal to have sex outside of marriage. Being unwed and pregnant could have serious consequences, even for an expat.
Because of this, even in Dubai expats must present a marriage certificate in order to give birth in a hospital.
If you are not married, giving birth in the UAE is not option.
Step Two: Health Insurance
Check that your health insurance provider covers maternity needs and see how much is provided. As stated before, healthcare in the UAE is excellent, but expensive. The cost of having a baby in the UAE is no exception. In a government hospital, the cost of prenatal services and giving birth is upwards of 6,000 AED (1,633 USD). In private hospitals, maternity packages can range from this same amount to over 22,000 AED (5,989 USD).
As health insurance is mandatory to secure a residency visa, expats should not run into the problem of giving birth in the UAE without health insurance. If your health insurance does not cover maternity costs, see about upgrading the plan.
Step Three: Collect Required Documents
In order to give birth in the UAE, there are several documents you will need to present:
- valid health card of expectant mother
- marriage certificate (original and copy)
- original passports and copies of both husband and wife
- residency visa and copies of both husband and wife
Things to Know about Giving Birth in the UAE
- Because of the UAE’s strict adherence to Islam, it is almost guaranteed that your OB-GYN will be a woman. If you are someone who does not want a female OB-GYN, you will need to look into other birthing options.
- In some countries such as the US, as soon as a baby is born they are whisked off to a nursery, but in the UAE your baby will stay in the room with you.
- Many private hospitals will allow your husband to be in the room with you while you give birth, and some even allow him to stay in your room overnight. Shop around for hospitals if this is important to you.
- Home births are not allowed. You must have your baby in a public or private hospital.
- For babies born in public hospitals, an Arabic birth certificate will automatically be issued. For babies born in private hospitals, parents will need to apply to Ministry of Health and Prevention or the health authority in their emirate of residence for a birth certificate. They will need to present a birth notification.
Benefits of Giving Birth in the UAE
Unfortunately, giving birth in the UAE does not grant citizenship or permanent residency. An expatriate child born in the UAE is only considered a citizen if one of their parents is already a UAE national. Until 2019, it was not possible for expats to become UAE citizens. You can read more about the visa changes in our Visa and Work Permits section.
If your child is granted UAE citizenship, they will live a very comfortable life. The UAE government is known for its lavish spending on its residents, which includes the tax-free income that expats also enjoy. However, in addition to an Emirati citizen enjoying the benefits of free public healthcare they can experience other luxuries as well such as a substantial retirement fund, provided through social security. If an Emirati man marries an Emirati woman, the couple is awarded nearly 70,000 AED (19,000 USD) by the UAE government. Likewise, the UAE has been known to pay off the debts of Emirati nationals during special holidays.
There are global rumors that this type of exorbitant spending is not sustainable in the long-run, but currently the UAE still provides handsomely for their citizens.
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