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Don’t Have Health Insurance? Then You Can’t Enter the UAE.

On February 16th, the UAE government announced stronger enforcement of a law requiring all foreign people visiting the Emirates to possess their own personal health insurance. The government's newfound zeal for tourist medical coverage is actually a desire for greater control on immigration. As the UAE has become a shining star of development, stability and success in the Middle East over the years, more people have emigrated to the state - both to share in that success, and to one day receive the same state benefits that Emiratees enjoy. The government's focus on immigration comes following the end of a two month amnesty program that began in December 2012; the program allowed more than 10,000 illegal residents in the UAE to pay fines to remain in the country legally, or obtain passes to leave without penalty. Now that the amnesty program is over, the government is cracking down on illegal immigrants and ensuring that only people who can afford their own health insurance are coming across the border, in an effort to keep out people likely to be a financial burden on the state’s healthcare systems.

The law itself has been in place since 2008, although it has not been strictly enforced. Despite specific text of this law requiring all tourists entering the UAE to have medical insurance coverage, citizens of 33 countries have been exempted from questioning at the immigration counter as to whether they have insurance or not. These countries are the same countries that are exempted from needing to obtain a visa before entering the UAE, and include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and a number of other EU members, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea. According to the acting director of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department, nationals from these countries do not need to prove their insurance status before entering the country, because citizens of such developed nations normally have their own health insurance.

So what happens if a visitor is caught without insurance? People who are found to be uninsured at the immigration customs desk will have to purchase a short-term insurance plan from one of two companies that were appointed by the government to provide such insurance. The Oman Plan and the Aman Plan can cost from Dh40 to Dh185 depending on the duration of the stay; they provide coverage for basic emergency transportation and medical care. People who have already entered the UAE and do not have medical insurance could be found in violation of visa rules, which could lead to a fine of Dh200 for the first day and Dh100 each additional day that an individual remains in violation. To be sure, it is in each visitor’s best interest to obtain health insurance coverage before entering the county.

No matter where you are coming from, obtaining quality International Health Insurance before you depart for the UAE would be a great idea even if it weren’t required by law. One of the main reasons for buying ahead that you will be able to dictate the coverage that is best for you. Unlike the coverage provided by Oman and Aman, by purchasing insurance ahead of time, you can choose a comprehensive plan that addresses most, if not all, of you potential medical concerns. Additionally, by getting your policy before you depart for the UAE, you can do price comparisons between different insurance companies to make sure that you are getting the best value for the coverage that you require. Even better, you can find coverage via an insurance broker able to do an insurance policy comparison among a number of insurers on your behalf. This is a great time saver when you're busy planning your trip.

Healthcare in the United Arab Emirates is among the best in the world. That's why over 100,000 people per year travel to the state primarily for medical treatment, accounting for over Dh6 billion in revenue. With all that money being spent, it's no surprise that another major concern for expatriates and travelers going to the UAE is the cost of medical care. Indeed, the highest quality medical care is often the highest priced as well, and so already having a good International Medical Insurance plan can give travelers peace of mind that any treatment they receive will not cost an arm and a leg.

The United Arab Emirates has valid reasons for making sure that every person who crosses their borders has the ability to pay for their own healthcare. Rising healthcare costs and a large number of people without insurance have created an unsustainable environment for the country's healthcare system. As a traveler, the simple truth is that there is no reason to not have a personal insurance plan before boarding the plane. Not only will you not have to worry about being in violation of the law in the Emirates, but you could also be saving yourself a great deal of money and protecting yourself from unforeseen dangers; you will be able to rest easy knowing that, even though you may be a traveler in a strange land, you have easy access to some of the world's best healthcare.

Travis Jones




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