8 out of ten people in UAE are underinsured: Zurich

Firm explains ‘hidden costs’ that UAE residents will end up paying because they’re not covered by their insurance.

A huge number of residents in the UAE are facing the risk of spending their lifetime of savings if they become seriously ill because only a small percentage of them have insurance plans that cover critical illnesses.

Financial services experts have warned that the standard medical insurance that most people signed up for have very limited coverage, which is why those who have been diagnosed with cancer, heart ailment or kidney failure ended up in serious financial crisis.

According to the latest research provided by Zurich International Life Middle East on Monday, nearly eight out of ten (76 per cent) people in UAE, or a staggering 7.1 million residents, are underinsured, and 85 per cent of women are not covered for critical illness.

The provider expressed concern over the low levels of UAE residents– mostly expatriates — with sufficient insurance cover considering that very few government provisions exist for foreigners and companies tend to provide limited healthcare coverage.

“While private medical insurance might cover some or all medical bills, there tends to be an annual limit and individuals might also be required to co-pay a percentage of the bills,” Zurich said in a report.

Without a critical illness insurance, residents will have to personally cover a host of “hidden costs” that come with a serious disease, including a range of expensive prescription medicines, physiotherapy, clinical psychological services and other therapy sessions that can set a patient back tens of thousands of dirhams.

Then there are lifestyle and other related costs to consider. When a person is unable to walk, for instance, a huge sum is most likely required to cover for specialised equipment and home modifications, such as wheelchair access, which can be particularly expensive.

According to research, over a third (37 per cent) of people incur costs for replacement clothing due to rapid weight loss or gain and specialised equipment and structural alterations at home to aid recovery or treatment.

And if a person needs to stop working to recover from a critical illness, he and his family will lose the monthly income while facing huge medical bills.

“It’s important to note recovery from a critical illness is highly individual and it could possibly take longer than four years for you to fully recover,” said Jason Waldron, protection expert at Zurich Life International.

Based on a report by Macmillan, almost one in three (30 per cent) of people living with cancer experienced a loss of income as a result of their diagnosis, while a third (33 per cent) stopped working either permanently or temporarily, depending on recovery times.

“Some costs are difficult to quantify, such as regular trips to medical appointments, travel, wigs or hairpieces due to hair loss, and increase in household bills such as utilities, groceries and telephone,” Zurich added.

While the current level of protection in the UAE is low, Zurich noted that a lot of people in the country are actually willing to pay an average of 6 per cent of their monthly income on insurance premiums, higher than the global average of 5 per cent. Furthermore, one in five individuals in the UAE are willing to pay ten per cent on the same.

The amount of money that people need to spend on critical illness insurance premiums can vary depending on the age, gender or medical history of an individual.

Waldron suggested a quick tip on how to determine how much critical illness cover you need:

“As an absolute minimum, [take] your annual income and multiply this by four. This will ensure that you can afford to maintain your current lifestyle while you are out of work and recovering. It’s important to note recovery from a critical illness is highly individual and it could possibly take longer than four years for you to fully recover.”