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Expatriates’ United Arab Emirates health insurance and regulations

Expatriates with cancer diagnosis in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should be treated with special protective rules and regulations giving the seriousness of such diagnosis and also the nature of cancer treatment which could last for years or the patient’s entire life.

The majority of the population of the UAE, a relatively young country established in December 1971 and located in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula, are expatriates from over 200 nationalities specially Asia and only 1.4 million (15.2%) are Emirati (UAE) citizens.  As per the UAE regulations all expatriates and residents are mandated to obtain a basic health insurance valid all the time to obtain a valid visa to secure a legal status in the UAE, which have their health insurance coverage linked to their work contracts. Once the work contract expires or canceled, the health insurance is automatically canceled.

 

Because of this system, when someone is diagnosed with cancer appears the major concern of whether they will be able to continue working while they are receiving treatment or not and the extent of treatment on their ability to function and look normal. Almost all expatriates with cancer diagnosis fear they will lose their job and hence their health insurance once they are not able to meet their job requirements or miss working days.

 

The problem is that despite the UAE rules and regulations are very protective for employee, employers can dismiss them for under performance, which does not exclude medical conditions as an acceptable reason for these rules. For this reason, almost all expatriate cancer patients request their chemotherapy sessions to be held after hours or during the weekends to avoid missing working days, what can create a significant pressure on the chemotherapy infusion unit.

 

Another concern is related to their right of privacy and confidentiality. Humaid O. Al-Shamsi, MD , MRCP (UK), FRCP(C), FACP , University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, explains that “they have experienced a significant number of expatriate cancer patients who lost their jobs in the middle of their treatment and they are left without health insurance or valid legal status to stay in the UAE and they are forced to leave to their home countries to seek continuation of their cancer treatment which most likely causes gaps and delays in their treatment plan”.

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