Dubai Health Insurance Law – Attention all Dubai Employers

The Dubai Health Insurance Law No. 11 of 2013 (the “Law”), came into effect on 1 January 2014, and will aim to create an integrated health system in Dubai.  The implementation of the Law will help bring the emirate’s healthcare regime in line with other well established schemes in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

According to the Dubai Health Authority (the “DHA”), the objectives of the Law are to provide all residents, including expatriates as well as Dubai nationals, with access to healthcare and, beyond this, to ensure that healthcare is of the highest quality.

Although the Law came into effect on 1 January 2014, the provision of mandatory health insurance is being implemented gradually in the following phases:

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The Law sets out that employers are required to put in place health cover meeting the minimum requirements of the Law and covering emergency treatments, GP visits, specialist referrals and surgical and maternity services.  Unlike other schemes in the Middle East region, the employer is not obliged to pay for coverage for spouses and dependents of an employee but the DHA encourages employers to do so as a matter of good practice.

Health insurance will be linked to the residency visa in collaboration with the relevant authorities and the renewal of an existing employee’s visa will be subject to that employee having health insurance in place. The scheme will be carefully regulated, for example, only those insurance companies granted permission to transact health insurance business in Dubai are allowed to offer health insurance plans. 

Employers will be required to provide a basic health coverage with an annual premium of around AED 500 – AED 700 with a maximum health insurance cover of AED 150,000 per annum per person.  Failure by employers to provide insurance carries fines of between AED 500 and AED 150,000 with repeated breaches carrying a maximum fine of AED 500,000.  Pre-empting a potential issue, the Law specifically prohibits employers from deducting healthcare insurance premiums from the employee’s wages or any attempt to reduce the employee’s salary in order to mitigate the cost of healthcare.

The Law has been generally well received in Dubai and is seen as a step towards the uniform mandatory provision of healthcare throughout the Gulf region.  As the scheme becomes fully implemented in the coming years, we will gain a better insight into whether the DHA’s new Law meets the objective of providing access to high quality healthcare for all residents.