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Health Insurance for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

Expats in China should have health insurance when they can afford it. In most cases, an international insurance policy is the most relevant option.

It is advisable to get your insurance arrangements in order prior to entering China.

International cover

You should check the geographical coverage of your existing foreign insurance policy, if you have any. If you haven’t been sold this policy as an international insurance cover specifically designed for expats, your policy is unlikely to work in China. In that case, you should let your insurer know that you are moving to China, and switch to an international cover. Your insurer is likely to charge you extra for this, but do bear in mind that the very fact of being insured in several countries carries an extra burden as well.

A good international cover would insure you against:

  • medical costs in China
  • medical costs in your home country (or another relevant foreign country), and
  • medical evacuation costs (without adequate insurance, these can be well above  $10,000, or even in excess of $50,000).

If you need insurance in China, you can take out a policy from a Chinese provider if you feel confident enough to do so. Otherwise, you should have an international health cover from an insurance provider based in your home country.

Qualifying establishments

Do check if the hospital or clinic you are attending is not excluded by your insurance policy.

If possible, go to a hospital which is happy to apply for payment directly from your insurance provider. This spares you the need to pay upfront and to make a claim for yourself. In any case, you should check this in advance.

Typically, private hospitals with international staff are happy to collect your insurance details without asking you to pay upfront, even if your provider is foreign. This is much less likely if you attend a public hospital with a foreign insurance policy. See Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in China.

Employment in China and health insurance

If you are an employee in China, your employer is required by law to:

  • provide you with health insurance, or
  • sign bulk contracts with medical practices to provide treatment to the employees.

Employees are also required to contribute towards health insurance, and contribution rates are set by law. These rates are part of the Chinese social security system and may vary from one location to another.

If you are unhappy with the coverage of your basic compulsory health insurance, you might wish to take out an additional policy in the private sector.

 

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