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The health system in the United Arab Emirates
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Are you planning to move to the United Arab Emirates alone, with your partner or with your family? What health insurance options are available to you to ensure your peace of mind? Here are some keys to remember about the health care system in this federal state known for its high standard of living.

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Public and Private system

The public health system in the UAE varies from emirate to emirate: it is government-funded and regulated at the federal and emirate levels. The public system is administered by:

  • Ministry of Health and Prevention,
  • Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD),
  • Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Emirates Health Authority (EHA).

Over time, in an effort to modernise, funding tends to focus more and more on public-private partnerships.

If your employer does not provide medical coverage, you can still get free or very affordable treatment in public hospitals as an expatriate, provided you have a (paid) health card. The application form and the list of documents to be provided are available in all hospitals. You can also apply online to the health authorities in each Emirate. As for the fees, you should expect to pay AED 320 (about €80) for an adult and AED 120 (about €30) for a child.

The importance of having health insurance when moving to the United Arab Emirates

In order to obtain a visa, foreigners wishing to expatriate to the United Arab Emirates must present proof of health insurance.

For example, basic health insurance must be provided by the employer in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In the other emirates, it is up to the companies to offer this benefit or not. The extent of coverage and type of policy depends on the employee's salary and position, among other things.

Note that in Abu Dhabi, this insurance will cover your dependents (spouse and up to 3 children under 18 years of age) whereas in Dubai, these same dependents will not be covered. Finally, this insurance is only valid within your emirate of residence and in certain establishments only. For full coverage, expatriates generally prefer to take out private health insurance.

A state-of-the-art health system

According to the Federal Statistics and Competitive Authority, the UAE has more than 40 hospitals and over 8,000 doctors in the public sector. In the private sector, there are nearly 100 hospitals and 14,000 doctors.

In general, the UAE has a particularly advanced health infrastructure with top-of-the-range care, ultra-modern equipment and highly qualified doctors and surgeons. Modern and easily accessible, both public and private hospitals respond quickly to the needs of the population. 

However, a special mention must be made of the private system, which is very popular with expatriates. Indeed, due to the language barrier, many foreigners living in the United Arab Emirates prefer to turn to English-speaking staff, trained abroad, or even foreigners altogether.

As far as the health establishments are concerned, quality is the key word, to such an extent that there are currently 181 doctors per 100,000 inhabitants. Moreover, over the past ten years, medical tourism has taken off in this area. Expatriates can enjoy the high medical standards practiced in the country, but at a high price. In Dubai, for example, an initial consultation with a doctor costs around AED 220 and up to AED 400 for private night doctors.

Useful information:

  • To find a health provider in the UAE, visit the UAE government portal.
  • To call an ambulance, dial 999 or call the number provided by your health insurance provider to speak to an English speaking operator.

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