The UAE’s health minister has pledged to consider a proposal to cover the cost of Covid-19 testing through health insurance.
Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, was urged to ease the financial burden on members of the public who have regular screenings, many for work and travel purposes.
Federal member of the National Council, Hamad Al Rahoomi, raised the issue at the last meeting of the consultative body on Tuesday.
PCR testing is required for travel to Abu Dhabi from other emirates and for travel abroad, while regular testing is a requirement for many employees.
“We already have financial burdens from the disease and we are required to have regular tests for many procedures,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.
“Many people and businesses have suffered from the pandemic and are plagued by the cost of testing.”
He gave the example of a family who had to pay Dh 3,000 for Covid-19 testing within a month after a member tested positive.
“And if a business owner had a positive case in the workplace, he would have to shut down for some time and test all of his employees,” he said.
The cost of a PCR test is capped at Dh150 in government-run hospitals in Dubai and reduced to Dh65 in Abu Dhabi.
A PCR test typically cost 370 Dh in the early stages of the pandemic, but has since been significantly reduced.
However, the costs can still add up for those who are tested frequently, prompting the FNC member to ask for support.
“There is an essential need for insurance. People pay out of their pockets,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.
He said the government has been “more than generous and paid billions” of dirhams to secure treatment and free tests if necessary, but there should be rules to ensure the costs are covered by health insurance.
Mr Al Owais said free testing will continue to be available throughout the Emirates.
Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) offers free testing at its national screening centers for people with symptoms, Emirates, residents over 50 and people suffering from chronic diseases, pregnant women and people with disabilities.
Mr Al Owais said the government continued to treat all Covid-19 patients free of charge.
“And if there aren’t enough beds in public hospitals, we transfer the patient to a private hospital, and the government covers the costs,” he said.
In response to Mr. Al Rahoomi’s insurance coverage proposal, he said a new federal health insurance law is still being developed and promised to consider the member’s suggestions.
The minister said healthcare “will be different after the coronavirus” and told the council there would be “breakthroughs in healthcare and excellent quality of service”.