Emerging health challenges are global. The countries of the GCC are leading the way in addressing some of those challenges and also represent an important part of the global healthcare economy. This update will therefore be relevant to healthcare businesses and professionals doing business in the GCC and/or offering healthcare services to GCC patients.

United Arab Emirates

Federal News

UAE to introduce a federal health insurance law

A new federal health insurance law envisages the establishment of a Federal Health Insurance Authority to regulate health insurance across the UAE. The new authority will, in coordination with the Ministry of Health and the health authority of each Emirate, set out new procedures and conditions for the licensing of healthcare service providers as well as for the accreditation, registration and qualification of health insurance providers.

The draft law also intends to make health insurance coverage mandatory for both nationals and expatriates throughout the UAE. While the UAE government will bear the cost of all UAE nationals' health insurance, employers will be required to provide basic health insurance cover for their employees (both expatriates and nationals) and any person under those employees' sponsorship. In addition, the law will make it mandatory for visitors to the UAE to have emergency coverage in place. Evidence of health insurance coverage will become a condition for the issuing of work or residence permits and evidence of the emergency coverage will become a condition of entry on a tourist visa.

UAE to issue a draft law governing the use of information technology in health services

A joint committee formed from various health authorities in the UAE is drafting a new federal law regarding e-health, or the use of information technology in the field of health. The law seeks to improve the quality of health services and regulate all clinical and health practices which use modern technology.

UAE residents to be able to lodge complaints over healthcare treatment

In Abu Dhabi, grievances are to be registered with the Abu Dhabi Health Authority and complaints will be accepted within a year of the incident. For Dubai and the Northern Emirates, residents are able to lodge a complaint with the Dubai Health Authority, which will accept grievances within six months of the incident. Complaints are investigated by reviewing health records and interviewing the medical team in question. The process should take from three to six months, and the office will take the necessary disciplinary action, whether that is a fine, a warning, a suspension or revocation of license. Cases where the patient is requesting financial compensation are usually referred to the courts.

Zakat fund and SEHA in deal to assist disadvantaged

The Zakat Fund and SEHA have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOA) to facilitate access to medical care to families with limited incomes that are registered with the fund. The Zakat Fund will cover all their medical fees. This MOA is in line with the Federal Government's endeavour to enhance participation and cooperation amongst local bodies.

Abu Dhabi

Health Authority Abu Dhabi issues new price list for medical services in Abu Dhabi

HAAD has announced a new price list for healthcare services that will be implemented in Abu Dhabi starting October 2012. The price list will represent the actual cost of medical services paid to healthcare providers by insurance companies. The new price list redistributes the total cost of various medical services without causing inflation in the total price of healthcare in the emirate. The price list is necessary to include a range of medical services that have become available since the previous price list was set in 2008.

The new set of prices increases reimbursements for doctor visits and decreases amounts for laboratory services. They are expected to encourage physicians to spend more time with their patients while decreasing the number of laboratory tests administered.

Dubai

Dubai hospitals must sign up to provide ambulance services

Hospitals and medical training centres in Dubai were given until 31 August 2012 to register with the government ambulance services. The Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS) has reported an increase of 17.6% since last year in the number of cases requiring the dispatch of ambulances and the government seeks to ensure availability by enforcing this deadline.

Health facilities that fail to register with the DCAS will not be authorised to operate.

Registration is also conditional on the facility's healthcare professionals having a clear policy record for misconduct.

Sharjah

Sharjah Healthcare City established

The Ruler of Sharjah has established the Sharjah Health Care City (SHCC) as a health and medical free zone supervised by the Sharjah Health Authority. It is reported that this new body aims to, among other things, promote Sharjah as an international hub for health care and services.

SHCC is to establish hospitals, consultant and diagnosis centres, organ transplantation and rehabilitation centres, health resorts, medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies, health logistics and support services, and any services relating to the healthcare industry.

Qatar

Introduction of health insurance in Qatar

Qatar intends to introduce a health insurance scheme to provide universal healthcare access by 2014. Under the new scheme, the government will pay the health insurance premiums for Qatari nationals while employers will be responsible for the premiums of their expatriate workers.

In preparation for the implementation of the draft law, the Qatari government is establishing the National Health Insurance Company (NHIC), which is under the control of the Supreme Council of Health of Qatar. The objective of the NHIC is to launch and regulate the new health insurance scheme by coordinating between insurance providers and the beneficiaries of the health insurance scheme. About 10 major insurance companies based in Qatar will compete for the provision of this service.

The health insurance scheme is expected to be rolled out in five phases, starting with a pilot programme that covers women aged 15 years and above and extending eventually to include the coverage of all residents of Qatar. Once the universal health insurance scheme is introduced, all residents and visitors of Qatar will be required to be insured. In due course, health insurance will be mandatory for residents and will be linked to the processing and granting of residence permits for expatriates.

Qatar issues new rules for opening and operating medical centres

The Supreme Council of Health and Ministry of Public Health of Qatar has issued a decision amending the requirements to obtain a license for a medical centre. Whereas in the past, a group only needed to have three doctors to open a medical centre, the Standing Licenses Committee has now reduced this requirement to two, but made it mandatory for the centre to provide medical and diagnostic services, including X-rays, medical laboratories and pharmacies.