Since 2016, all companies based in Dubai need to offer health insurance to their employees and it’s one of the areas in HR where you can make the biggest difference. But do you really know what your medical benefits strategy is set to achieve?

In this month’s newsletter, we’re guiding you to define and finalise your medical benefits strategy. Identifying the objectives of your medical benefits is the first step. Do you have only one or a number of goals you need and/or want to accomplish? Ask yourself:

  • Is there a need or desire to control costs?
  • Can and should medical benefits be used as an attraction and retention tool?
  • What kind of customer experience do you want to offer your employees?
  • Is there a need to change your employees’ behaviour?
  • Is compliance to any laws or regulations required?
  • How do you want to administer the plan?
  • To what degree do you want to leverage technology?
  • How can you effectively communicate the philosophy, policy and insurance to all employees?
  • How does it all fit into your total rewards strategy and your overarching employee value proposition (EVP)?

Cost control

In this region, medical inflation was valued around 15-20% for several years. While it has slightly reduced recently, your company may be faced with double digit premium increases. How sustainable are these increases year over year? Identifying insurance schemes that are proactive in patient management to help members (employees) handle their conditions and ensure they are taking the appropriate medication at the right time and dose can support your goal of controlling costs without reducing quality care. Other options to controlling costs include pre-authorisation of specific areas of cover or working within a well-defined network of healthcare providers.

Attraction and retention tool

Listening to their employees, some companies have realised how much staff is valuing medical benefits for themselves and their family. Not having to worry about the expenses related to their own or their dependents’ chronic condition can alleviate financial worries and increase employee’s engagement and productivity.

Providing above the range medical benefits can also act as an attraction tool for candidates. While in the past, pre-existing conditions may not have been covered, Dubai based insurance scheme now include them. However, the treatment amounts may not be sufficient for chronically ill individuals. Offering a scheme that looks after existing as well as future illnesses can give candidates also that peace of mind. My new employer is looking after me!

Customer experience

Progressive companies have changed their perception and are treating their HR services like retail experiences. They are transforming HR from paper to digital and are imitating the online shopping feel from large retailers, providing a customer (employee) focused experience.

Employee behaviour

Using focus sessions, surveys or regular interaction with employees, you can find out what your staff truly values. Understanding their needs, you can review to what degree the health insurance can be tailored. Depending on your philosophy, you may offer employees options to purchase additional coverage at their own expense. Think of the cafeteria-style or flexible benefits model.

In this region, however, employees view their health insurance card as a credit card. It’s another way of getting more money from their employer, although not in direct cash. As a consequence, certain benefits like dental and wellbeing are highly utilised. Do you want to exclude certain benefits as a result?

With health care professionals also oversubscribing medication, employees may not realise the total cost of a single consultation. Companies can increase co-pay and deductibles to encourage employees to think about the necessity to visit their doctor.

Yet, companies need to educate employees and highlight the consequences of a highly utilised scheme. While the costs will be primarily borne the company, premiums need to be sustainable or the company may need to modify its scheme or change to a lower insurance cover and/or provider. How can you communicate this message to employees?


Laws and regulations can change and it’s vital to take out compliant plans to avoid financial or other fines. If you have employees working in different emirates, do you want to reduce the administrative burdens and select one plan, even if it’s covering more than required by law? Your insurance representative or broker can also give you insights into the latest legal developments.


Some HR teams want to be heavily involved in the administration of the scheme while others get accidentally drawn into it. How easy will it be for your team to extract the appropriate employee information from an existing HR database? If the personal data isn’t readily available, administrative tasks may take over your HR operations especially during the renewal periods.

You may need to consider your current situation: Does your team have the time and the skills to effectively manage the plan? Would you save time and money and create more focus and efficiency by letting your broker or insurer handle it all?


Technology can make your life easier, provided the data is up-to-date and accurate. While it does not only support the administrative involvement of the HR team, employees can also experience faster service with the right apps.

Many insurers are thus providing paper-less claims, online information centres and webinars. Gamification is applied to help members finally live the healthier and more active life they always wanted. It further supports individuals managing their condition effectively. Teledoctors are another way to provide effective services via a smart phone.


When defining your medical benefits strategy, don’t forget to include communication. Effective communication with executives differs from effective communication with factory employees. Tailor the communication for each audience, using different channels and being open to receiving feedback.

Which tools can you use? Depending on your organisation and workforce, there’s a plethora ranging from apps for the mobile phone to traditional all hands meetings. How will you deliver on your key message, promote your offerings and demonstrate the value to your employees?

Overarching alignment

As you are defining your medical benefits strategy, review how it aligns to your organisation’s total rewards strategy and your employee value proposition (EVP). Your EVP determines your total rewards strategy which then creates your medical benefits strategy. It should not be the other way around.

A medical benefits strategy which stands in contradiction to your other HR programmes and initiatives may be perceived as meaningless by your employees. Your executive team may further question the missing alignment and more severely your overall HR function.

Demonstrate your leadership by clearly linking each strategy. Speak with your broker, insurer or obtain other external expertise to support you in defining and implementing your medical benefits strategy.

Feeling overwhelmed with your medical benefits strategy? Don’t know where to start to formalise or redefine it? Call us on +971-52-2516322 and find out how we can create, enhance and implement a medical benefits strategy fit for your EVP and organisation.