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February 1, 2017 | 13:20 | Dubai
Though experts unanimously opine that mandatory health insurance in the UAE is a step in the right direction, expats lament that they are not able to find affordable healthcare insurance for the elderly parents who live with them. Insurance companies in the UAE either do not offer appropriate plans for covering the elderly or charge high rates.
But if expats do not buy health cover for their elderly parents, they may have to pay a hefty fine of AED 500 per month. Not only that, those who do not have health insurance cover may be denied visas also. This means expats may have to send back their parents to their home-countries.
Available options do not cover everything
Devendar Sinha of the Golden Age Group for elderly residents developed by Emaar admits that many group members have health insurance. He adds that though the plans are affordable, they do not cover all the aspects that need to be covered. For example, these plans do not cover medicines and regular check-ups that are very much crucial for the health of the elderlies.
Dependent elderlies feel guilty that their sons and daughters are spending huge amounts towards doctor fees, check-ups and medicines. Some of these elders admit that due to this, they sometimes refrain from sharing their health issues with their family members till their condition becomes unbearably bad.
How the Emirati culture views parents
Elderlies point out that the Emirati culture considers parents also as an integral component of a family. Therefore, many elderlies are now requesting the insurance companies in the UAE to include parents also in the family packages they offer. As of now, family plans available in Dubai cover only the spouses and children of the members.
Parameters insurance companies consider for fixing their prices
Some of the insurance brokers who wish to remain incognito also admit that health insurance costs for elderly people are repulsive because costs of medicine and medical care for such aged people are quite high. Insurance companies fix the price of their plans based on a few factors. The age of the insured, their lifestyle and habits, pre-existing conditions, the level of the covers required, and the network of clinics and hospitals are the parameters insurance companies take into account for fixing their prices.
According to the rules of Dubai Health Authority, all the pre-existing medical conditions should also be covered by health insurance plans. This is another reason for insurance companies to increase their prices because they do not want to incur losses while covering all the medical conditions. Insurers are aware that after the age of 60, people may have to make frequent visits to hospitals. Especially, those who have been affected by diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure should necessarily go for monthly check-ups. They should take medicines regularly also.
Health insurance companies say they are trying to come out with special and affordable insurance plans for covering the elderly.
Why reinsurance underwriters refuse to absorb the health risks of elderlies
Insurance companies also point out that reinsurance underwriters may refuse to absorb the health risks of elderlies. In fact, at the time of finalizing underwriting agreements, reinsurance companies are insisting that the health insurance providers in the UAE should sign a declaration absolving them of such risks.
Abdul Azees, General Manager at Aster DM Healthcare, says that according to reinsurance companies, the chances of emergency hospitalization are high with elderlies who have been affected by chronic ailments. In their perspective, these aged people are different from regular people who are active at their workplace. Possibilities of they having heart attacks are also significantly higher. So, reinsurance companies charge very high premiums, he adds.
This fact is corroborated by Shyam Shankar, Head of Bank Assurance, RAK Insurance also. He adds that his company is planning to launch plans that cover parents also. They are awaiting due approvals from authorities.
But some experts opine that even if the insurance companies come out with special packages, there may be waiting periods for pre-existing conditions.
Suggestions to insurance companies for offering affordable insurance plans to elderlies
Below are few suggestions that can be adopted by insurance companies for offering affordable health insurance to elderlies: