Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Owais, UAE's Minister of Health and Prevention, has assured to reduce the financial burden on those community members who have to take regular COVID-19 tests for work or travel purposes. He also pledged to propose a plan to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing for those in need through health insurance.
During a recent meeting of the consultative body, Federal National Council member Hamad Al Rahoomi raised the issue related to the financial burden posed by COVID-19 screenings on some employees.
According to protocols, PCR tests are required for those travelling to Abu Dhabi from other emirates and for international travel. In addition, regular testing is mandatory for a number of employees to ensure public health and safety.
“We are already suffering from financial burdens because of the disease, and we find ourselves obliged to take tests regularly for many procedures,” said Al Rahoomi, during the meeting.
He underlined that many people and businesses have suffered losses due to the pandemic and costs of regular testing are adding to their difficulties. He explained by giving an example of a family which had to pay Dh3,000 ($817) for multiple COVID-19 tests in one month after one of the members tested positive for the disease.
In case business owners have a positive case at their workplace, they would be required to close down the premises for some time and ensure testing for all other employees.
As of now, the cost of a PCR test at government-run hospitals in Dubai is capped at Dh150, while it has been reduced to Dh65 in Abu Dhabi.
During the early weeks of the pandemic outbreak, a PCR test was priced at Dh370. But the price has been cut significantly to ensure all sections of society can afford it. However, the cost of testing and other medical expenses is still posing a burden for some of those individuals who have to get themselves tested frequently.
Taking note of the situation, the FNC member has called for support from the ministry. Pointing out that people have been paying for these tests from their pockets, he stressed the need for insurance cover.
Lauding the government's efforts in securing treatments and free testing for those in need, Al Rahoomi called for putting certain measures in place to ensure that PCR testing costs are covered by health insurance.
Addressing the meeting, Al Owais affirmed that free testing has continued across all Emirates to help those in need. In addition, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) provides free testing at its national screening centres to those people experiencing symptoms, UAE citizens and residents above the age of 50, pregnant women, those suffering from chronic diseases, and people with disabilities.
He added that the government will continue to provide free treatment to all COVID-19 patients. He underlined that if there have been insufficient beds at public hospitals, patients have been shifted to private hospitals with the government covering their treatment cost.
Responding to Al Rahoomi’s insurance coverage proposal, the minister said that a new federal health insurance law is in progress. He further assured that Al Rahoomi's suggestions would be taken into consideration by the government. Highlighting that health care is going to change after Coronavirus, he told the council that the UAE and other countries are going to experience “healthcare breakthroughs and excellent quality of services”.