Medical insurance in Abu Dhabi

All what you need to know about medical insurance in Abu Dhabi — read in our guide.
Jul 25, 2023

According to the legislation of Abu Dhabi, all residents living in the emirate are obliged to have health insurance when entering the country. Insurance is required not just to receive excellent medical care, but it is also mandatory for obtaining a work permit or an Emirates ID. Moreover, fines are imposed on employers or sponsors who fail to provide insurance for their employees or dependants.

Medical insurance is mandatory in Abu Dhabi

The Department of Health — Abu Dhabi (DoH) is responsible for the provision of quality medical services and access to proper medical facilities, as well as for compliance with service regulations.

Under the Abu Dhabi legislation (Law No. 23 of 2005) and the regulations issued by the DoH, all non-nationals are required to obtain health insurance in accordance with their visa type in order to receive medical treatment. Compliance with the established health insurance scheme is mandatory for those who hold a work or residence visa issued by the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Important! Without medical insurance, it is not possible for foreigners to obtain or renew their work permit, residence permit or Emirates ID.

The provisions of the Law do not apply to those who come to the emirate under a tourist visa. In this case, to enter the country, you need to get travel insurance that is valid for the entire period of the trip, but no more than 90 days. You may obtain travel insurance from any insurance company or your tour operator. However, the extent of medical care under a ‘tourist’ policy is limited, so this may only cover you until you apply for a residence permit. A new policy issued by a local insurance company is required in order to obtain residency.

Obtaining insurance if you are an expat

In Abu Dhabi, any health insurance products can be issued exclusively by organisations and brokers that have received a Certificate of Authorization from the DoH. The Authority monitors all phases of the healthcare network, verifies the insurer’s licenses and agreements with authorized healthcare service providers.

Most companies offer an online policy, in which all you need to do is to fill in the form. There are also numerous aggregator portals that allow you to compare different policies and choose the best insurance to suit your budget and cover needs.

Tips for choosing an insurance company

1. Make sure the insurance company is authorized by the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi (DoH). The list of authorized insurance companies and brokers can be found on Abu Dhabi's public services portal, called TAMM.

2. Check whether the company has a license to underwrite insurance issued by the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE).

3. Review the list of medical facilities where the insured person can receive treatment. Private clinics cannot provide services without an appropriate license.

4. Consider whether the insurance company has contracts with clinics and hospitals located near to the place where you live or work.

5. Make sure that the policies offered by the insurance company, reflect the requirements for policy benefits, coverage and exclusions, established by the Law.

6. Carefully review the contract or the terms and conditions offered by the insurance company. The contract should include a list of covered and excluded health care services, deductible paid by the insured upon each visit, along with methods for settling disputes and complaints.

7. Check that the policy provides prompt outpatient and inpatient medical care within the emirate, as well as emergency services within the UAE.

What are the types of insurance policies?

Four types of health insurance policies are available for non-nationals, depending on their visa type, migration status, monthly salary and individual preferences.

1. The Basic Insurance Policy is available only to individuals with a limited monthly income: less than AED 3K (USD 817) with accommodation, or AED 4K (USD 1K) without accommodation. The policy is also eligible for dependents of a resident expat who are not insured by an employer. The maximum annual limit for essential medical services offered under the policy is AED 250K (USD 68K).

2. The Enhanced Insurance Policy is applicable for individuals whose income exceeds the Basic Product threshold. The basic medical treatment under this policy is supplemented by other medical services at the discretion of the insured.

3. The Visitor Insurance Policy is suitable for those entering Abu Dhabi on specific types of visas. This includes individuals holding a visit visa valid for more than two months but under six months (excluding tourists visas) and the children of individuals who do not have permanent residency in the emirate. This policy has a coverage limit of AED 100K (USD 27K) and provides emergency care, but excludes non-emergency treatment for chronic conditions.

4. The Flexible Insurance Policy introduced from the beginning of 2023 and targets entrepreneurs and investors to attract more business and investments to Abu Dhabi. The policy can be applied to investors and owners of freelance businesses, residents working in the private sector with a monthly income of more than AED 5K (USD 1,4K), as well as their families and employees. The premium of the Flexible Insurance Policy is AED 750 (USD 204) per year, and covers health care services limited to AED 150K (USD 41K).

The Visitor Insurance Policy premium will be based on the length of stay in the Emirate. The premium for the Basic Health Insurance Policy will be determined by the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. As of Q2 2023 the premium for the Basic Policy for a small investor aged from 18 to 40 is AED 2.7K (USD 735) per year. Other tariffs can be found on this page. The cost of the Enhanced Insurance Policy will depend on the chosen level of coverage, the list of medical services, the age of the insured, and the current market rates. As an example, the premium for a male aged between 18 to 40 with an annual benefit limit of AED 500K (USD 136K) and worldwide coverage starts from AED 7K (USD 1.9K) per year.

Important! Most insurances imply a deductible, which means that the insured individual must pay a certain amount themselves, before the insurance company will cover any expenses. Typically the insurer covers 80% of the medical costs and the remaining 20% is paid by the patient. The Visitor Insurance Policy does not include a percentage deductible for the emergency medical services.

Some insurance companies offer flexible payment plans for premiums and the choice of payment forms and different currencies. Premiums paid for the Basic Health Insurance Policy are not refundable. For the Enhanced Health Insurance Policy, the insurer may specify the conditions under which the premiums charged can be refunded. Insurers are obliged to fully refund the Visitor Insurance Policy payment if the insured has not been issued a visa, provided that no medical services have been rendered under the policy.

For expats who travel a lot around the world or non-permanent residents of Abu Dhabi, having a worldwide policy can be a significant benefit. Many insurance companies offer their clients a policy with coverage outside the UAE, which will be valid even in your native country.

Health insurance requirements for Golden Visa holders

Holders of a UAE Golden Visa who are not employed by an employer in Abu Dhabi, are exempt from the requirements of the health insurance scheme. However, when applying for a visa, they are required to have insurance for themselves and anyone else who receives a residency visa under their sponsorship. In the absence of insurance, they will be required to provide an undertaking to purchase a policy or to reimburse possible medical services at their own expense.

Those who have a Golden Visa can choose individual health insurance plans for themselves and their family members. Insurance policies with comprehensive worldwide coverage and increased limits will probably suit them best.

Sponsorship and medical insurance

According to the Law, employers or sponsors must provide health insurance coverage for all non-nationals employed or sponsored by them. As Golden Visa holders are self-sponsored, they are required to ensure insurance not only for themselves, but also for their dependents. Namely if you employ a household staff, you will be required to secure them with at least the Basic Insurance Policy. However, the extent of coverage for employees and dependents is determined by their salary and position.

Important! In Abu Dhabi, the employer must provide insurance not only for the employee, but also cover the policy cost for his/her spouse and up to three children of minor age.

Fines for not having an insurance policy

Sponsors or employers are obliged to include an employee or a dependent in a health insurance programme within seven working days from the date of his/her arrival in the Emirates. The Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, who is the regulatory authority for the health sector, has the right to impose financial penalties on employers and sponsors who fail to comply with this requirement. The fine amounts to AED 300 (USD 82) per month for each person without insurance.

Sponsors can be exempted from paying penalties in these three cases: if the employee does not appear at work, if the employee does not have a legal resident visa, or in case of death of the sponsor.

Medical services available under insurance

The basic health insurance programme includes medical services within the territory of Abu Dhabi, and coverage in other emirates includes medical emergencies only. The following inpatient and outpatient care can be received under the Basic Insurance Policy prior to approval of the insurance company:

  • consultations, diagnosis, treatments and surgeries
  • inpatient stay
  • gynaecology and inpatient maternity services
  • laboratory tests
  • X-ray diagnostic
  • physiotherapy treatment
  • 70% of the cost of medication
  • emergency care and transportation

Treatment for serious, high-cost illnesses can be provided under the Basic Insurance Policy only after six months from the policy's effective date.

Important! In order to visit a gynaecologist regarding pregnancy, the patient has to be married. Due to national traditions, pregnancy out of wedlock is prohibited in the UAE, as well as abortion, except in cases associated with medical conditions. For female convenience, there are clinics that employ only women, and some medical facilities cater only to children.

Medical treatments not listed in the basic programme, like dental and optical care, or additional prenatal and postnatal services may be supplemented upon an agreement with the insurer or obtained through the Enhanced Insurance Policy. The non basic healthcare services include, but are not limited to the following:

  • dental treatment
  • private nursing care
  • not medically necessary services, such as cosmetic surgery, alopecia, baldness and weight control programmes
  • experimental treatment
  • addictions treatment
  • services related to fertility, contraception, hormonal disturbances and sex transformation
  • prosthetic devices, consumed medical equipments and supplies
  • treatment of illnesses and injuries caused by hazardous activities and extreme sports
  • hearing and vision corrections
  • psychological and psychiatric assistances
  • preventive services, including vaccinations
  • massage, aromatherapy, homoeopathic treatments
  • treatments of viral hepatitis
  • organ and tissue transplants

If you have any specific illnesses or chronic diseases, it is better to discuss this with the insurance company in order to select the health insurance policy appropriate for you. The insurer may customize the medical policy and extend the benefits to provide additional health services.

Medical services not included in the health insurance scheme

The health insurance programme does not cover medical services for injuries or illnesses caused by the following:

  • use of drugs, alcohol or not prescribed medication
  • self-harming
  • venereal diseases, AIDS and its complications
  • military operations, terrorism, natural disasters
  • criminal acts performed by the insured
  • internationally and locally recognised epidemics, etc.

How to choose a doctor and make an appointment

The procedure for receiving medical care should be discussed with the insurance agent, and also has to be specified in your health insurance contract. Most often, you can receive treatment only after the approval by the insurance company, and its cost is paid by the insurer directly to the medical facility. In some cases, you may be reimbursed for medical care once you have sent receipts and supporting documents to the insurance company.

The majority of medical centres and hospitals operating in the UAE have an official website, a hotline or an app that are all available to make an appointment. First, you should visit a general practitioner to get a diagnosis, and then the doctor can refer you to seek further examinations or to a specific expert.

If necessary, you can use a doctors' registry on the DoH website or search medical providers on the official Abu Dhabi Government portal — TAMM. There are specialized medical websites that allow patients to check their health profiles stored in electronic form, get test results and make an appointment with a doctor online. SEHA is the largest medical organisation in Abu Dhabi, offering patients the ability to search doctors throughout the emirate.

Emergency care

An urgent case is defined as a situation involving a threat to life or a loss of ability to function normally. In an emergency, you can dial 998 to call an ambulance.

The patient will be delivered to a hospital to receive immediate treatment and stabilisation of his/her condition. However, for further medical assistance or care, the patient may be transferred to another facility that is covered by their insurance. Medical providers must render medical care first and then claim reimbursement from insurers.

A service, called Istijaba, was created by the DoH to respond to urgent inpatient inquiries that can be directed through a toll-free hotline: 8001717.