How might general health improve with MHI?
The introduction of mandatory health insurance (MHI), creates a great opportunity for the insurance sector to facilitate the gap between requirement and actual utilization of healthcare services.
Until now, the majority of the expat population would potentially avoid seeking appropriate treatment due to financial implications. Historically, if they found themselves in ICU, or requiring surgery, they would have to shell out huge amounts of money. The roll out of MHI will help them to access appropriate, quality treatment in a timely manner and reduce the short and long-term healthcare risk.
With the DHA working towards their health priorities, this mandatory step will surely have a positive impact on increasing life expectancy by reducing mortality and morbidity and keeping the occurrence of infectious disease to a minimum. These effects will be the direct result of people being able to access healthcare facilities at the appropriate time thanks to the availability of basic coverage facilities.
What differences does the govt expect to see?
Mandatory insurance is an important step towards their objectives. The growth of insurance penetration rates and competition in the Health Insurance industry will sustain the upward economic growth. It will also mean that the overall increase in healthcare costs will be contained.
Equally, the increase in competition among insurance companies and healthcare providers will strongly benefit the end user, both in terms of optimized health and broader accessibility. The end result will ultimately be a healthier population, improving the UAE’s ranking of 27 in the world health systems.
How do you feel as a healthcare expert that government aims will be met?
The government is taking positive steps to meet their goals and this is a significant initiative in driving that progress forward. It will not only increase the quality of healthcare in Dubai but support in putting the region on the world map for health tourism.
What more do governments need to do to improve people’s general health?
Active public-private partnerships to accommodate the following measures:
- Efforts to keep healthcare costs at reasonable and accessible limits
- Continued preventive measures like early detection/immunization/education on decreasing chronic and lifestyle diseases
- Compulsory preventive health checks
- Enhanced measures at targeting the school population to bring early awareness of disease
In what way do business owners embrace health insurance? In what sense might this have a positive impact on productivity?
Business owners share the responsibility of their employee’s health, along with the government in their overall objective to improve the healthcare status of its population.
Loss of man hours due to sickness and disease will be reduced, resulting in a healthier, more productive workforce. Investing in health and wellness initiatives for the workforce has immediate benefits in reducing future premiums as well as overall well-being and employee absenteeism.
How do the benefits to businesses balance with the financial outlay businesses will have to meet?
Businesses the world over are starting to adopt policies that help spot, manage and prevent common health conditions.
Initiatives include regular health screenings, nutritional guidance, gym memberships and smoking cessation courses. Early detection and timely treatment of chronic conditions most certainly reduce the burden of healthcare costs to companies by promoting a healthy and functional workforce.
Studies have proven that in organizations that employ these wellness programs, employee medical costs fall on average by circa 3.27USD for every USD spent, with a reduction in sick leave of 28%.
Will hospitals /clinics be under increased pressure due to increased patient numbers- if so, will they be under pressure to employ more staff?
The introduction of mandatory health insurance will definitely increase the utilization of public and private facilities, which in turn will attract investment.
The DHA has monitored an increase in the expenditure for healthcare services over the last 2 years. The plans to spend extensively on upgrades of the current public hospital network will provide more beds and wider facilities to cater for the increased demand.
Private providers are able to secure significant investments to open new facilities and in turn, will increase their bed ratio through the development of new sites. With the injection of increased investment, inevitably, this will see an elevation of employment opportunities to maintain and develop these services.
What will be the impact on insurance companies in the region? Will business go up across the board, or will competition between insures mean they will offer insurance at lower prices?
The insurance industry will get the necessary impetus to grow significantly due to the mandatory cover law. According to the Insurance Authority, written premiums rose 13.5% last year, to Dh 33.5 billion.
With this is mind, the Dubai health insurance sector is expected to grow significantly. However, despite this growth, premium rates are nose diving. With 60 insurers competing in a country of 9.5 million people, premium rates for healthcare are under pressure, meaning cost versus premium may be unsustainable.
This scenario will bring in measures from insurance companies geared towards more the stringent use of insurance policies by patients and providers. Healthcare service providers will be subject to enhanced scrutiny to deliver only the required services rather than bill exorbitantly, with high-end medicines and unnecessary tests.
It is likely that insurance companies will also introduce a tiered network system, to ensure a cost-effective delivery of health care services. The resulting landscape will make more room for a wave of tailor-made packages at competitive rates which will benefit all the stakeholders within the sector.
Mr. Abdul Azeez
GM & Head of Insurance, GCC