Dubai readies health infrastructure as demand for retirement expected to increase

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Healthcare infrastructure to cater to the elderly in Dubai is developing quickly to meet expected future rising demand, a sector consultant has said.

Currently, with senior care (60 years and above) accounting for around less than 5 percent of the population demographics, the demand has been adequately met in the past, keeping in mind not only the medical but also the social context in which senior care is delivered, Vikas Kharbanda, Partner and Healthcare practice lead at Arthur D. Little Middle East (ADL) told Al Arabiya English.

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“It would be difficult to say that the healthcare system is already ready to absorb the increasing demand for senior care,” Kharbanda said. ”With new demand emerging in the system, what is imminently clear is that the infrastructure is developing rapidly in the UAE for bringing specialized and more targeted care for senior citizens.”

“Dedicated and specialized senior homes, home care and now with more specialized services starting to emerge (recent investments around specialized senior care services as announced by DHCC earlier this year as an example) we see that the system is recognizing and developing well for the emerging demand,” he added.

Retiring in Dubai

Dubai is setting itself up to become a retirement destination. Those aged 55 and above can now apply for a retirement visa.

There are different options available for expat retirees looking to relocate to Dubai. Broadly, these can vary from receiving over $4,000 in monthly income from a pension plan or a previous employer, having savings of $275,000, or owning property.

According to Dubai municipality, the visa application process can commence without having a medical insurance plan upfront. Upon visa approval, a medical test is conducted, and people then need to purchase a medical insurance plan suitable for them which does not need to be from a local insurer.

A general view of the Dubai skyline shows the Burj Khalifa building March 25, 2010. (File photo: Reuters)
A general view of the Dubai skyline shows the Burj Khalifa building March 25, 2010. (File photo: Reuters)

Insurance for the elderly

According to Kharbanda, insurance cover for the elderly has always been more expensive with a premium of more than 50 percent compared to younger age groups. The plethora of insurance products (from basic to comprehensive plans) show a significant variation with premiums ranging between AED5,000 ($1,400) to AED 50,000 ($13,600).

“As the demand emerges in the coming years with new policy changes, we can also anticipate new models combining insurance and managed care services starting to emerge as the demand starts to build up,” he said.

“What is clear is that a combination of increasing needs, investment environment and policy changes that are emerging in the system, we can see a number of new models starting to emerge.”

The insurance dilemma

Organizations focused on health financing face great challenges for many countries both across the developed and developing markets. This challenge is not only technical, but very political in nature as well.

In the GCC, looping the elderly into health insurance schemes is a very challenging task mainly because of the pre-existing conditions these individuals may have as well as their exposure to greater risk of developing new medical conditions, he said, adding that developing sound regulatory framework for each country is required.

“There is no simple answer to these challenges but we are striving to find innovative ways tailored to individual country needs on how to advance public health insurance across the GCC and how to prevent individuals to be exposed on catastrophic financial risks due to sudden health issues,” he said.

More importantly, senior care is driven not only by healthcare infrastructure alone, but also needs broader social infrastructure to support.

New business models are emerging in the GCC and particularly in the UAE where infrastructure to support senior citizens with their specific needs are being developed.

ADL is working with governments across the region to help them estimate the overall healthcare expenditure covering the next 5-10 years, modeling different scenarios under different set of assumptions, he said.

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