Expats living in Dubai will no longer receive free chemotherapy, according to a recent article in The National. Previously Dubai’s health system had provided free cancer treatment to all residents, including foreigners. Locals will continue to receive treatment for free under the amended rules, as will expats already undergoing chemotherapy.
Dr. Hussain Abdul Rahman, Director of Medical Affairs for the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Managing Director of Dubai Hospital, cited rising costs as the reason behind the change. Chemotherapy for a single patient can cost anywhere from USD 30,000-60,000, depending on the type of cancer. The DHA was also concerned offering free chemotherapy was setting a costly precedent for other illnesses. “Why shouldn’t a heart disease patient or a diabetic patient come to us and demand that we pay for his treatment, since we pay for a cancer patient?” Dr. Abdul Rahman said. “They are all sick and they all need this treatment to survive. What’s the difference?”
The elimination of free cancer therapy for expats is the UAE’s latest effort to curb rising healthcare costs. It has already tightened health exam requirements for work visas and declared war on alcoholism. Expatriates place a significant burden on the Emirate’s healthcare system, making up over 90% of the Gulf nation’s working population. 75% of the Indian, Arab and Asian workers in Dubai have no health insurance, and the DHA hopes the end of free cancer therapy for expats will encourage employers to provide expat employees with proper health cover.
“It is logical to assume that this change in policy by the DHA is to encourage every employer to provide their patient with suitable health insurance so that all healthcare needs are met,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman. “Every employer has a responsibility to make sure their employee is insured, and every expat coming to this country should demand insurance from their employer.”