Wherever you live, work or travel to, it’s always a good idea to have medical insurance in place. Some expats simply hope for the best or rely on whatever health cover might be available for free. Hoping you don’t get ill or injured can be a very expensive gamble however, and the levels of state-provided healthcare available for expat workers vary enormously and rarely if ever cover every eventuality.


Taking out comprehensive medical insurance makes sense but there’s a difference between cover being advisable and cover being mandatory. Now Dubai is set to follow its oil-rich neighbour Abu Dhabi in making private health insurance compulsory.


Why the change?


The plans are long-standing ones but were put on hold as the emirate looked to hold on to its foreign workers when the financial crash hit in 2008. Private insurance was not strictly mandatory but you couldn’t get a work visa renewed without insurance or a government health card.


Now Dubai is poised to go further and make companies based in the emirate responsible for covering all employees. Staff will be responsible for covering spouses and dependants themselves, although private firms are being encouraged to extend cover to those persons as well.


Visitors will also be required to provide proof of valid insurance on entry, meaning that even if you are not living in Dubai, you will need adequate cover for every trip you make.


When will the change come into effect?


As the timetable was laid out in December, Essa Al Maidoor, director general of Dubai Health Authority, said:


“Our aim is to provide everyone in Dubai with access to essential health cover and to empower them by providing the right to choose their health provider within the private or public sector. They can start providing cover earlier, but these dates are deadlines they must meet,”
Companies employing 1,000 or more staff must provide health cover for them before the end of October.


In phase two of the scheme, companies with 100 to 999 employees will have until the end of July 2015 to comply.


Companies with up to 100 staff have an extended period of until the end of June 2016 to provide cover.
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