Dubai will make medical insurance compulsory for expatriates, despite missing a self-imposed deadline for January 2008.
The state with 1.2 million expatriates, is the biggest draw for foreign workers in the United Arab Emirates.
Remaining UAE members are expected to fall in with a federal scheme, which will mean every expatriate in any of the UEA states must have insurance. Other Middle East countries are expected to bring in similar compulsion.
This will mean that in each country or state that insurers and brokers will have to be authorised to do business there and offer health insurance.
The days of any international health insurer being able to offer UK expatriates cover for almost any country in the world are disappearing.
In Dubai, take up of insurance is expected to be progressive, rather than on one date. Expatriates will have to show a cover certificate with a registered insurer when they apply for visa renewal every three years.
Foreign insurers will need an accredited local partner to trade.
Cigna, Allianz, Bupa International, Goodhealth and Expacare have local partners, but other well-known international health insurers will either have to seek local partnerships and accreditation, or not offer cover there. Sadly, history shows us that there will inevitably be insurers and brokers offering cover to UK expatriates without authorisation, claiming either wilfully or ignorantly that being authorised in the UK is adequate.
Several Middle East countries seek to control who offers insurance in their boundaries so are or will limit sales to international insurers with a local partner or to a licensed homegrown provider. As other Gulf states move towards compulsory insurance for their foreign workforces there is little doubt they will also require local partnerships for international insurers.