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Public vs private healthcare in the UAE

Like most countries in the world, the UAE has both publicly and privately funded medical facilities throughout the country. While you can receive high quality medical treatment at either kind of facility while in the country, there are pros and cons to each. Our friends over at UAE Medical Insurance have already written about this topic previously, but here, Pacific Prime Dubai provides an update on the differences between public vs private healthcare in the UAE, and which is right for you.

UAE public hospitals

The public healthcare sector in the UAE is almost exclusively for UAE citizens. The system is centrally managed by the UAE government. The hospitals that are part of the public system are essentially separated into different levels of care based on their location, as well as the size of the population they are expected to serve. One interesting aspect of UAE public hospitals is that they are the only choice in some communities for care related to some complex emergencies or major trauma.

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Much like public hospitals in other parts of the world, one thing you can expect to find in public hospitals in the UAE is long wait times, as local populations freely make use of their public hospitals without hesitance, often leading to full waiting rooms. Also, don’t be surprised to find that these facilities may not have language support to effectively communicate with foreign patients. While English is spoken widely, those from outside the UAE that do not speak English may have trouble communicating with hospitals staff.

UAE private hospitals

Currently the number of private hospitals in the UAE outnumbers the number of public hospitals. Perhaps this is due to the continued expansion of privatization of healthcare via the mandatory health insurance regimes in place in some emirates. As well, the sheer number of expatriates living in the UAE has resulted in a very large population that does not have access to the publicly subsidized healthcare that Emiratis are entitled to.

As far as quality is concerned, depending on where you go in the country, the quality of medical care received can vary, even in private hospitals. For the very best in care, people can seek out the most cutting edge hospitals in the most developed cities in the country. Of course, the cost of care in such facilities can be substantially higher than will be found in hospitals elsewhere. If you want to be able to address potentially high costs that can be found in the UAE’s private hospitals, you will want to have a comprehensive health insurance plan in place during your time in-country.

UAE healthcare costs

The cost treatment at private hospitals in the UAE is higher than in public or government hospitals. However, prices for some treatments have been reduced to just a fraction more than public healthcare costs due to regulatory changes. For treatment in Dubai, the DHA reforms and partial cost-coverage of the Dubai Health Card have helped make seeking private treatment a better choice, both health-wise and economically.

It is worth noting that certain surgical operation costs also cost much less in UAE emirates such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi than in Western countries. According to the Expatistan Cost of Living Index, a 15-minute appointment with a doctor in Dubai and Abu Dhabi costs between AED 177-286 (USD $48-78). Aside from cheaper doctors visits than in many Western countries, some surgical procedures cost less in the UAE as well. For instance, a prostate operation in the UAE costs up to AED 29,000 (USD $7,896), which would cost around AED 39,000 (USD $10,618) in the US.

One reason why treatments can cost one-fourth of the price in comparison to the US or the UK is lower overhead. Since the cost of non-medical staff, land, and construction is significantly cheaper, treatment costs are generally cheaper too.

Mandatory insurance in the UAE

While a majority of the emirates offer some subsidized public healthcare and leave it up to individuals and employers whether or not they wish to secure private health insurance to address medical costs, the two largest emirates – Dubai and Abu Dhabi – both now require residents to possess private health insurance or face repercussions. Currently the penalty for not having health insurance in these territories is fines and/or denial of visa issuance. Indeed, even visitors to Dubai must have compliant health insurance in place before they arrive in the emirate, or there is a strong chance that they will not be allowed to enter.

Not just any health insurance plan will do, either. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have outlined specific requirements that a plan must meet in order to comply with each emirate’s respective regulations. For instance, at the time of this article’s writing, both emirates require that a medical insurance features a maximum limit of AED 150,000 or more, as well as coverage for maternity and pre-existing conditions. There are a number of other requirements that need to be met, so be sure to speak with a knowledgeable insurance adviser about this if you do decide to purchase insurance for entry to either Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

Insurance for expats and medical tourists in the UAE

Not only is a large majority of the UAE’s population expats, but it is also a popular destination in the Middle East for medical tourism. Touting some of the most advanced hospitals in the region, people from all around the world make places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi their choice for elective or non-emergency medical care.

For many, moving to a new country or traveling for medical care does not allow a person to make use of their existing health insurance plan at home. With international health insurance plans, however, the costs of medical care received in virtually any country or hospital worldwide will be covered. What’s more, these plans are fully mobile, so no matter where in the world you may find yourself moving to, you will be able to maintain your health insurance plan and not risk losing coverage for any conditions that develop while you are on it.

Covering costs of public vs private healthcare

If you will be moving to the UAE in the future, or if you are currently insured in the UAE but are looking for a better plan, contact the helpful insurance experts at Pacific Prime Dubai. They can help you with a plan comparison and free quote so that you can identify the best possible plan on the market for your needs and budget. Alternatively, you can click the button below to use our online quotation tool!

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