DUBAI // A stalled plan to have mandatory health insurance for every worker in the emirate could happen within days, a senior health official said yesterday.

Originally scheduled to be introduced in 2009, the plan hit a few glitches. But it will be ready “any day now”, according to Dr Haider Al Yousuf, director of health funding at Dubai Health Authority (DHA). “The director general said it would be finalised in 2013 and that is still very much the plan,” he said. “We are very much in the final stages now. Technically, we are ready to go, but certain things need to be finalised by the Dubai Executive Council.”

Dr Al Yousuf said the plan could be finalised in as little as two weeks but the executive council wants to ensure everything is ready before it is announced officially. He said a plan of this magnitude needed time to implement properly.

“Mandatory health insurance is a massive change to our entire health service,” Dr Al Yousuf said. “This is a very complicated plan and one that affects every expatriate and local worker in Dubai, so, therefore, it is not something that can be rushed.

“We are changing the face of the way the health service is in Dubai; something of this enormity has to be done right.”

DHA is working in close contact with all health bodies and insurance providers to ensure a smooth transition phase, he said.

Once the health insurance law becomes compulsory, it will take about three years for the scheme to be rolled out fully, Dr Al Yousuf said.

A timeline for implementation of the plan will be announced soon after the law is in place.

Once implemented, every employer will have to buy health insurance for his employees, which will cover both private and public hospitals in the emirate.

It will be loosely based on the Abu Dhabi model, where a large proportion of the workforce is covered by insurer Daman. In Abu Dhabi emirate, 98 per cent of workers are covered by health insurance.

Like in Abu Dhabi, Dubai will operate an online clearing house for e-claims.

The online tool will be implemented alongside the new scheme, meaning every insurance claim in Dubai will be made electronically.

Doing it this way allows health information to be tracked and analysed to understand how and where money is being spent in the system and means provider quality and productivity can be measured and reported.

The e-claim system will also help reduce fraud and improve services, while making it easier for people to compare facilities, allowing them to make the best choice for their care.

Under DHA’s original plan, employers would pay the Dubai Government between Dh500 and Dh800 a year for each employee, who would register with an outpatient clinic for basic healthcare services.

The plan was postponed because of the effect of the economic downturn on businesses’ finances.

A new proposal, in 2011, cut out the government and required companies to directly buy private health insurance for their staff.

Announcing the idea at the time, Dr Al Yousuf said it would finally be introduced in 2013 – and it now looks like this will be the case.

Abu Dhabi first came up with the idea for mandatory health insurance in 2005. Since the system was put in place, employers and sponsors have been obliged by law to provide health insurance to employees and their families.

Insurance is compulsory for all employees, their spouses and up to three children up to the age of 18, as long as they live in the emirate.

Failure to comply with the law may incur a fine of at least Dh300 per employee per month.