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Health insurance and portability: what happens when you leave Dubai?

Dubai’s mandatory insurance laws have more or less ensured that every resident, expats included, have adequate health insurance. The thing is, with so many foreigners living here, you do see a fairly high turnover. If you are coming to the end of your time in the UAE you may now be wondering what happens to your individual health insurance and whether you can take it with you when you leave? Here, we take a look into insurance portability and how it works when you leave a location.

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What is insurance portability?

Portability refers to the ability for an insured person to continue or maintain their coverage and benefits once they leave either a country, or an employer that provides their insurance. It can also refer to the ability to shift insurers whilst still keeping the coverage and benefits you had with your previous provider.

Essentially, portability is the act of changing an insurance policy without having to go through underwriting. Someone looking for portability in a plan usually does so to ensure they don’t lose access to care and coverage they’ve enjoyed before.

Why might I need a continuation of my current plan?

There are many different reasons you may want a continuation of your current plan. One of the most common reasons is the fact that many insurers will attach waiting periods or time-bound exclusions on certain benefits. If, for example, you have maternity coverage with a waiting period but are looking to move, you might want to consider a plan with a continuation option as in some cases the waiting period will not start again.

Another key reason for portability is ensuring coverage continues for previously claimed injuries or illnesses. When buying a new plan, pre-existing conditions are a common exclusion for many insurers. Therefore, people looking at a change to their insurance coverage can often find themselves faced with the prospect of having to cover ongoing or expected later treatments out of pocket where a new insurance policy excludes pre-existing conditions.

What do I need to know about portability and continuing health insurance benefits?

The insurers will each handle portability differently, but there are commonalities that each insurer will agree upon. If you think you’ll need a continuation plan for your individual health insurance when you leave Dubai, then here are a few points to consider.

1. Do all individual health insurance plans offer portability?

No. Regardless of whether you’re looking at portability with the same insurer or a completely different one, the ultimate decision about whether there’ll be a continuation of your previous benefits to a new plan will rest with the insurer.

2. Will there be any extra costs for continuance?

Maybe. Again, it depends on the insurer offering the portability option as to whether or not you’ll be expected to pay more for coverage. Some key things to understand about the costs of continuation plans are:

  • Pre-existing conditions may require an extra loading, which is an amount added to a base premium to secure coverage for a previous injury or illness.
  • Location can also impact your premiums as moving to a more expensive country, such as the US or Hong Kong, can mean the price you pay in Dubai is not applicable and will therefore be higher when you renew your plan.

3. Is it possible to change some of the benefits and conditions of my plan?

The general rule of thumb with portability is that it’s easier to downgrade a plan than it is to upgrade it. If you find that a benefit that is mandatory in Dubai  is surplus to your requirements in your new home, reducing those benefits to something more appropriate shouldn’t be too much of a concern. If you’re looking to increase your benefits and limits, however, you may find insurers will only offer those terms under a completely new insurance plan.

4. When can I apply for portability?

You can only make changes to your coverage at renewal time, this includes moving coverage from one country to another. It’s common for people to request a continuation of a plan with an appropriate amount of time, 45 days for example, before their policy is due to expire.

5. Can I opt for portability when I’m moving to an employer who offers group health insurance?

Yes, you can. However, the portability will not transfer over to your new employer’s group health plan – you will end up having to pay for your own individual health insurance that offers continuation of your previous employer’s benefits.

Employers own the health insurance plans they offer as employee benefits, and means they determine what benefits and coverage apply. The good news is that many group health plans include coverage for pre-existing conditions, but you may still be subject to new time-based exclusions under your new employer’s plan.

Is a continuation plan the right choice for me?

Closing the book on the Dubai chapter of your life can be a tough decision to make, however those of you committed to relocating home or to another opportunity in a new country should understand your health insurance options regarding portability. Is it always the best option? It can be for some people with serious pre-existing conditions. Some may find that, where they’re going, new individual health insurance plans with similar benefits cost less than what they do in Dubai. Others might find it more expensive.

An alternative to opting for portability of a plan can be to secure an international health insurance plan instead. This replaces the need for a continuance of an old plan’s benefits across locations and insurers with a truly mobile coverage option that provides support for medical treatment wherever in the world you go.

Whether you’re leaving Dubai temporarily or for good, an international plan makes things easier by providing consistent coverage worldwide.

How do you know what the right option is for you? Talk to us at Pacific Prime Dubai today. Our expert team can talk through your situation, and find a solution that’s to your advantage – whatever your needs. For a free quote or some helpful advice, contact the team today!