Dubai health insurers fail to offer policies for special needs adults

DUBAI // Parents with disabled children over the age of 18 claim they are being discriminated against by health insurance companies. As the deadline of June 30 looms for mandatory health insurance in Dubai for businesses with less than 100 employees, families with older disabled or special-needs children who are unable to support themselves struggle […]

DUBAI // Parents with disabled children over the age of 18 claim they are being discriminated against by health insurance companies.

As the deadline of June 30 looms for mandatory health insurance in Dubai for businesses with less than 100 employees, families with older disabled or special-needs children who are unable to support themselves struggle to get cover for them.

Dubai’s large expatriate community must provide private health care for dependants if they are not already covered by company insurance. But many providers are refusing to offer insurance to anyone over the age of 18 who has a disability or special needs.

Safia Bari, director of the Special Needs Future Development Centre in Karama, has been trying to get insurance for her daughter, Nusrat, 31, and is worried she will not be able to get her visa renewed.

Dubai’s scheme is similar to Abu Dhabi’s, where health insurance cover is linked to visa renewal.

Although 48 health insurance companies are permitted to offer plans to the public in Dubai, some families have been finding it hard to find any offering cover for disabled or special-needs children.

“I have never been able to get health insurance for Nusrat,” Ms Bari said. “She is a slow learner with mild mental retardation. If she has a mild fever, or any health condition that needs treatment, no health insurance company will cover us.”

The development centre is funded by voluntary donations and is helping people with special needs from age 14 up to 57.

Ms Bari has established a support group with other families in the same situation when it comes to insurance.

“We have contacted many insurers but they have all said it is not possible,” she said.

“Luckily, my daughter does not have many issues, but there are other families who have to pay huge amounts for physiotherapy or medication, often for simple conditions.”

Ms Bari said she had tried all the main insurers to get cover before the deadline but each had rejected her application.

New legislation aims to ensure all expatriate employees working in Dubai have access to a minimum level of healthcare cover as set out by DHA.

Healthcare cover must be compliant with the scheme and provided by a local insurer.

Since launching in October 2014, mandatory insurance has been gradually phased in and now includes 75 per cent of Dubai expats, with the rest due to have cover by the end of June.

Sharjah residents are not required to have mandatory health insurance, but Indian designer Saramma George, 54, whose daughter Riya Ann, 21, has learning difficulties, is worried that may change.

“All three of the companies I have contacted to ask for insurance cover for my daughter have rejected my application,” she said.

“Riya is well, apart from a slight problem with her leg, and the only medical treatment she has had was dental last year that cost Dh250.

“Everyone says at first they will cover her but when they see the documents, they reject her. I am worried it will become compulsory in Sharjah, like Dubai.”

Health Authority Abu Dhabi has issued the Aonak card for people with special needs and orphans to be offered full medical treatment without having to incur consultation and other additional fees.

Dr Ibtesam Al Bastaki heads the Jury Committee for Special Needs in Dubai for Princess Haya, and said it was an issue that was being discussed.

“The DHA is talking now about how it can provide the coverage that is required,” she said.

“It is not just special needs children but also geriatric people who need to have healthcare coverage and access to nursing; this should all be part of the social insurance.”

The National contacted DHA and several insurance companies but got no response.

nwebster@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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