information for global expats

National Health Services for Expats in China

Submitted: August 2013

Healthcare is not free in China, even if you attend a public hospital. Instead, it is China’s policy to encourage its citizens to take out an insurance cover. Health insurance is compulsory for all employees in China, whether Chinese or foreign. Thus, the Chinese national health system is primarily insurance-based. See Health Insurance for Expats in China.

Any individual, regardless of nationality, may go to a public hospital or clinic in China – at least in theory. The same fees apply for Chinese citizens and foreigners, and they are very low.

Typically, you have to pay a small standard fee when you register your attendance at the reception. A deposit may also be required. It is better to have cash with you as many healthcare establishments do not accept debit cards. See Doctors and Hospitals for Expats in China.

Social security agreements

Your home country may have a social security agreement with China. In that case, you might be exempt from contribution requirements to the Chinese social security system. For greater details, check the terms of your social security agreement.

China has entered into bilateral agreements only with Germany and South Korea. Consequently, expatriates from other countries potentially face double social security coverage, and this can be very expensive.

Smoking in China

The Chinese smoke a lot, and tobacco may look very cheap in the eyes of many expatriates. Even your doctor is likely to smoke.

Though it might be tempting to seize the opportunity to buy cheap Chinese tobacco and to smoke more, don’t forget that smoking has serious long-term effects on your health. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lower life expectancy
  • Higher risk of having cancer (e.g. lung cancer)
  • Higher risk of having viral infections
  • Tooth decay or any other tooth/gingiva deterioration
  • Female infertility or male impotence
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Harm to fetuses (for pregnant women)

Be aware that smoking is very harmful for both active and passive smokers. Passive smoking (or second hand smoking) is the notion of breathing smoke even if you don’t actually smoke for yourself.

If you wish to stay in a healthy, smoke-free environment, do plan carefully your daily habits and check your workplace standards.



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