Premiums for senior health insurance (50+) for UAE residents can go above AED 30,000, depending on how comprehensive your plan is. And if you are the insurer, looking to cover your parents – as is my case personally – that can add up to a lot more than it would insuring your spouse and children.

[View all health insurance plans in UAE]

Insurance providers factor in pre-existing medical conditions and age, and may well require additional medical tests before calculating the final cost. A few insurance companies may not even provide for seniors over a certain age.

I have spent a week already researching online and calling insurance providers to get quotes for my own parents – my mother is 56 and my father is 74 and both are retired here in the UAE, living with me.

What I have found is that many providers would cover my mother but not my father, as 65 is a common cut-off age. (I found a few insurers did not even respond to callback requests because he’s over their cut-off.) With others, the cost gets prohibitively expensive with my father’s pre-existing heart condition. What if he gets arthritis or needs false teeth or major dental surgery? But the more add-ons, the more expensive again it gets.

Pick the right senior health insurance plan from the start: changing service providers later on will cost you more.

International vs local policy

If you have parents moving to retire in the UAE, it is important to compare the current policy they are on and what you can get locally.

Jessica, 35, moved her parents (her 75-year-old father and 61-year-old mother) to Dubai recently. She hoped to move them from an international senior health insurance plan and onto a local one but, when it came to getting a quote, age really played a big role – going up to AED 37,700 for a yearly plan.

It was clear pre-existing conditions would not be covered, which was a deal breaker. She decided to keep them on the international plan, which they had already been on for many years, as any change in policy would mean wiping the slate entirely – including the approval and coverage of pre-existing conditions.

Affordable basic health plans for all UAE residents

A new development I discovered is that, since Dubai made health insurance mandatory at the end of 2013, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has selected seven insurance companies – Alico, Arab Orient, AXA, Daman Insurance, Oman Insurance, RAK Insurance and Takaful – to provide affordable, basic plans to all residents and dependents… but these policies are not all ready to go live yet.

With an increased demand from consumers, we would hope to see many more options for the young and the elderly alike, at a much more affordable cost.

The basic plan’s annual premium will cost AED 500 – 700 per person. It will include a claims limit of AED 150,000, referrals to specialists, emergency care, surgeries, maternity cost and certain lab tests.

In Abu Dhabi, this had already been made mandatory, and paying for health insurance is considered the responsibility of all employers and sponsors, who are also required to cover the cost families of employees.

The Sharjah government has not made health insurance mandatory for all residents; their current health insurance scheme only covers employees working for the government.

[Compare Health Insurance in UAE]

Questions to ask when choosing senior health insurance

To pick the best senior health insurance, here are some questions to ask your health insurance providers.

  • Countries: Which countries are covered under the policy? ( This applies if retirees often travel back to their home country)
  • Hospitals: Which hospitals are part of the insurance network? Are any of them close to home?
  • Limitations: Cut-off age varies by insurer – is the senior who is looking to be insured eligible to apply for this plan? Until which age will you be covered? What happens if you want to continue to be insured but are over the cut-off age for that insurer, for instance you took the insurance out aged 55 but are not 60 and the cut-off is 60? Will more tests be required or will the insurer refuse to insure you any more?
  • Medicine: Which kind of prescription drugs are covered? Are drugs for serious medical conditions and mental conditions covered?
  • Pre-existing conditions: Is there an age after which pre-existing conditions will not be covered? Some may cover a pre-existing condition until the age of 55 but then refuse to continue coverage. How long do I have to be on the current plan before getting treatment for pre-existing conditions? (Service providers may have waiting periods up to 24 months, within which the insured cannot show any symptoms or seek advice for pre-existing conditions – such as a heart condition – before they will provide coverage.)
  • Special circumstances: Is there coverage for terminal illness, organ transplants, mental disorders or physiotherapy? Will hearing aids, dental implants, such as false teeth, or vision problems, such as cataracts, be covered?
  • In-patient and out-patient: If you do have a pre-existing condition, ask whether you would be covered as an in-patient or an out-patient. Out-patients are hospitalized for less than 24 hours, and some insurers may deem this a more acceptable cost for seniors with pre-existing conditions.
  • Group plans: If insuring your parents, will getting a family, group plan of three or more and including them in that cost less than a senior health insurance plan?