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Insurance for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

Do not wait for problems to arise before reviewing your insurance arrangements. Once you have a problem, it is already too late.

Insurance products are available in China, but language can be an issue. However, foreign-owned companies are more likely to have English-speaking staff, and they are competing for market shares.

Alternatively, expatriates may take out an international cover from an insurer in their home country. International covers can be more expensive, but they are straightforward and they can spare you the need to have separate insurance policies (i.e. one in your home country and one in China). Expats who frequently cross borders are more likely to need an international cover to achieve peace of mind.

If you are unclear about your cover or your needs whilst being in China, you might wish to check your existing insurance arrangements in your country of origin. This is important if you want to avoid double coverage.

Home insurance

Home insurance is divided into buildings insurance and contents insurance. You can also apply for joint cover.

A buildings insurance policy protects you against damage to your building. This may cover the costs of rebuilding your property from scratch or the costs of certain exceptional repairs, the alternative accommodation expenses while your property is rebuilt. On the other hand, a contents insurance policy covers your personal belongings only.

As for all insurance policies, it is up to you to decide how generous you want your cover to be, what the excess amounts are, which unexpected expenses are covered, etc.

Typically, you only need buildings insurance if you own your home (i.e. you own leasehold property). See Property Investment for Expats in China. However, you might need contents insurance, regardless of whether you own or rent your home.

Going away from home

If you expect to be away from your home for more than one month, you should let your insurer know. Failure to do so may result in a claim being rejected if something happens to your home whilst you are away.

Earthquake insurance

Typical home insurance policies exclude damage resulting from earthquakes. If you want your home to be insured against this, you should buy a separate earthquake insurance policy.

Motor insurance

By law, you must have car insurance if you drive a car in China, and your policy must include at least third party cover. Third party cover insures you against potential liabilities for third party death or bodily injury, but not damage or theft of your own car.

Health insurance

Health insurance is strongly recommended even if healthcare in China is not apparently expensive. This is because: (1) healthcare costs are higher than you may think, especially if you are after service quality; and (2) you might need medical repatriation. See HEALTHCARE – Health Insurance for Expats in China.

Life insurance

Life insurance can be particularly helpful if your family is financially very dependent on you, as it may guarantee a lump sum payment to your family if you die.

Do assess carefully the burden of retaining a foreign life insurance cover while you are resident in China. Do also check the geographical extent of your existing life insurance policy when you move across borders.

Business insurance

If you run a business in China, you must have personnel insurance and public liability insurance.

Personnel insurance protects you in case one of your employees has an accident or an illness in connection with his/her employment duties.

Public liability insurance covers you against certain third party claims against your business. This may also include legal costs.



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