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Ministry in talks with insurance companies to cover cochlear implants.

Summary: Cochlear implant surgery costs not less than Dh150,000 in the private sector

Humaid Al Qatami, Chairman of the Board and Director-General of DHA, Professor Abdulrahman Hagr, President Sau Image Credit: Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter

Dubai: The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) is in talks with insurance companies to cover expensive cochlear implant surgeries of children born to mothers residing in the UAE, Gulf News has learnt.

"We are discussing this with insurance companies at the moment -- if the child is born with [hearing impairment that requires a cochlear implant] and the mother is insured, this is under study," Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, assistant undersecretary for Health Centres and Sector and consultant ENT surgeon, told Gulf News on the sidelines of the first Arab Cochlear Implant Conference (ACIC) in Dubai.

Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, chairman of the Board and director-general of Dubai Health Authority (DHA), was present during the opening of the three-day conference yesterday, along with senior health officials in the GCC and Prof Abdul Rahman Hagr, president of the ACIC.

The three-day conference has brought together experts from around the world to provide knowledge and access to increasing awareness about cochlear implants among patients and their families, medical practitioners and other health professionals, educators and the general public.

With the theme 'Together, hearing is better', the conference was organised by the GCC ORL (otolaryngology) societies, Advanced Arab Academy of Audiology (4A) and the Arab Academy of Otology and Cochlear Implant.

During the conference, Dr Al Rand said the latest technology in audiology are available in the UAE and those with hearing impairment can benefit from it, but the cost could be prohibitive which is why the ministry is doing all it can to address the need. Some four per cent of the UAE population are estimated to have hearing loss, according to a UAE study released last year.

"If you do it in the private sector, the cochlear implant surgery will cost you not less than Dh150,000. But it's free for UAE citizens through the cochlear implant programme of the government," Dr Al Rand said.

"We also have the 'Help Me Hear' initiative for non-local child residents whose families cannot afford the cost of cochlear implant. We launched it during the Year of Giving and we are still continuing it in this Year of Zayed," he added.

Dr Al Rand said more than 15 children have undergone the free surgeries and are now able to hear through the initiative.

As for cochlear implant surgeries to be included in the insurance package, Dr Al Rand said the discussion is ongoing. He did not disclose the timeframe as to when the talks would be concluded.

Most insurance packages only cover medical equipment used externally from the human body such as hearing aids.

Having support to get the surgery is important, Ayat Adam, a resident from Sudan and an exhibitor with cochlear implants in both ears, said.

"After using three different hearing aids since I was 14, we heard about the cochlear implant surgery. The first surgery in 2011 was paid for by my parents. At that time, I already had 80 per cent hearing loss. The second in 2013 was covered by my mother's insurance because I was under her sponsorship," Adam, 30, told Gulf News.

"For me, I went for the surgery because I wanted to continue living my life because I was isolated most of the time. After getting it, I was amazed," she said, adding, "There are some people who don't know that solutions exist, but awareness is picking up."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Apr 5, 2018
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