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Economizing on your health insurance does not make very much sense,' argues David T. Youssef, Regional Managing Director for Goodhealth Worldwide, which is part of the Primary Group, a privately-held UK company that works in association with the Royal Sun Alliance, insuring 40,000 people globally and 14,000 in the Middle East.
'How much is your health worth?' asks Mr. Youssef. 'And when you get sick, and it is always a question of when and not if, then will you get the best treatment in the best hospitals?
'We focus on providing quality healthcare insurance for professionals and white-collar workers from multinationals and smaller local companies, but not the large local groups, and this can be on an individual or a corporate basis.'
Mr. Youssef says that one important point to watch on company health insurance schemes is the transferability of the policy when you leave employment.
'What happens if you have a serious illness and have to leave your employment? No insurer will touch you if you have a pre-existing condition. It is something not many people think about, and many regional policies do not offer transfer options, but we do.'
However, many individuals choose to go uninsured in the Middle East and take the risk on themselves.
'They don't realize that treatment of a serious condition like cancer can cost $100-150,000. Plus in most cases there is also the loss of the family income. I have people in tears in these offices, says Mr. Youssef, a Lebanese American who has 15 years of experience in the insurance industry, the past four with Goodhealth in Dubai.
He agrees that while individuals in their 20s may choose to take a risk on their healthcare options, the responsibilities of a family salary earner are different, and that it is here that healthcare insurance becomes more of a necessity than a luxury.
It is hard to come up with a typical cost for health insurance, as each case is different and it depends on choice of hospital location, the USA being the most expensive. But a man in his mid-40s could have an international package for around $2,000 as a benchmark.
'Our industry is very claims intensive, with an average of four to five claims a year,' says Mr. Youssef. 'It is not a high-margin business and we make around five per cent, though this is a business like any other, and we are essentially insuring the risk of hospitalization.
'In the Middle East we have seen a lot of new entrants to the marketplace since we arrived 24 years ago, and our focus is on quality service in our market niche. Our argument is that it makes sense to insure your greatest asset, which is your own health.'