HEALTH INSURANCE IN CHINA FOR FOREIGNERS
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China Expat Health Insurance
Quick and easy, find the best health insurance in China for expats for you and your family today. We are insurance brokers in China and have been helping expats since 2008. Our expertise covers most popular options such as health and life insurance plans. Additionally, some of the more niche related plans such as investments, retirements and liability policies.
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Health Insurance for Expats in China – One touch Approach
China Access Health is a licensed insurance broker in China. We have been helping foreigners and expats in China with their insurance needs since 2008. Based out of Shanghai, we have license to service clients in all regions in the country. At present our main office is in Shanghai. We have another major office in Beijing and few satellite offices in Shenzhen and Xiamen.
Our Services to Help You Access Best Healthcare in China for Expats
Licensed Insurance Brokers in China
We help our clients to source the best level of protection in line with their needs. This comes from both international and China-based insurance companies. We constantly help large media platforms and their readers on health insurance tips. Some of which are SmartShanghai, The Beijinger, Chengdu Expats and others.
We Work for You
We work on your behalf, we do not work for any insurance company. Mainly, we aim to help expats to get the right health insurance in China. All of the information we collect and our correspondence is confidential. We will never release any of your information to any other party without your permission.
Our Services Are Free of Charge
Our services are free of charge and we are reimbursed directly by the insurance company. The direct price for medical insurance will be the same regardless how you purchase insurance plan. Although, through our leverage it can be sometimes cheaper on future renewals.
What kind of insurance packages do you offer?
We work with top tier health insurance companies to tailor a package for you. From the cheapest emergency cover to luxury packages. Such can include Traditional Chinese medicine, massage therapy, dental and orthodontic treatment, optical and glasses cover. As an expat in China you always need to make sure your family has adequate medical protection. Especially in case you need to see a doctor or specialist.
It will however entirely depend on your preference and budget to figure out what level of insurance protection you need. As a bare minimum you can always go with inpatient (hospitalization) plan. In other words, for major medical care. This will give you peace of mind in case you should require a planned surgery. Or be hospitalized or even face an accident and end up on a surgical table.
More comprehensive health insurance plans in China typically include things such as Outpatient cover and specialists visits. Other extras are dental and wellness which are also knowns as preventative benefits. Unsure what level of cover you need? Refer to our ultimate guide on buying china expat health insurance.
Is there direct billing (cashless services) with any expat health insurance plans in China?
YES, you will have access to cashless payment within your network for most outpatient care. Most insurance companies offer such function by default at no extra costs. For treatments that are covered under your policy, you’ll just need to show your insurance card. Payment will be taken care right away.
Network of hospitals insurance companies cooperate with vary largely. In major cities like Beijing or Shanghai you may expect such services with vast majority of international hospitals. If on the other hand you live in Tier 2 or 3 cities in the country, then your options will be less. However, there are several companies on the market that somewhat have several direct billing providers even in Tier 3 and 4 cities. Keep in mind that those mostly will be some government run public hospital with VIP or International section. In such foreigners in China can get certain level of English proficiency from nurse or doctor.
I have pre existing medical condition. What are my options if I need it covered?
Firstly, many of our insurance partners can offer cover for chronic conditions including. For instance, hypertension, diabetes, spine and neck issues, IBS and Crohns disease, depression and anxiety. The whole process of covering pre existing medical conditions is not as straightforward and easy as just shopping for health insurance. But there are options that can either cover it in full at certain designated hospitals, while others might apply certain sub limit that. These can be used per year for coverage on existing medications.
During enrollment for such plans it is quite common that insurance company in China might request recent check up report. It will be necessary for underwriting purposes. Some are okay with the one dated within the last 12 months. While other companies would prefer a more recent annual medical within the last 6 months. It is pretty common also that some companies can arrange such a check up for you. Obviously, at their own designated provider free to charge.
Once terms of cover are finalized, it always follows with official confirmation in writing. Here you can see what special clause will apply on pre existing conditions in your policy. Very common practice in China is that this sub limit will be going up on each following renewal of the insurance. This is in particular a case for chronic conditions that can be well managed with medications such as diabetes or depression.
Looking for best healthcare for expats in China can be tricky so for full details see our guide on pre existing medical conditions and how to cover them.
Where can I find good English speaking doctors in China?
We know when you are facing a health problem it can be frightening. Additionally you will need to discuss the issue with a doctor who can communicate with you comfortably. All insurance packages will provide access to English speaking doctors in China. With such you can be visiting doctors and specialists who can speak English, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Spanish. This however will also mostly depend on the city where you live in China.
Tier 1 cities such as Beijing or Shanghai will definitely have more international level medical facilities. As a result, either employ doctors who have been trained overseas or even employ foreign doctors full time. If you however reside in Tier 2-3 cities, it will be less options to find foreign doctors. Many of top graded public hospitals have VIP or International sections. Typically, it is very common to have an English speaking doctor there, in some occasions nurse will be acting as a translator.
Where possible we will introduce you to a doctor who can speak your language. And is covered in your network under direct billing. For more information please refer to to our guide on most popular medical facilities that have English speaking doctors. Expatriate health insurance in China provides cover in almost all international type facilities across the country. Some of the examples are here English speaking doctors and foreign & international hospitals in China.
Which Insurance Companies do you work with?
Most of expatriates in China prefer to get health insurance through an international provider. Such as Bupa, Allianz, AXA, Aetna, NOW Health, MSH, ICBC, CIGNA. We work with companies who pay claims quickly and efficiently and provide reliable services. On the top of international providers, there is a lot of local solutions too from companies. Examples are PICC, PingAn, Taiping and ZhongAn. Although those are of a less popularity among foreigners in China.
Who can I contact after I purchase my insurance?
Once we have secured a package for you we will provide you with all of the contacts you need. This will cover emergencies, claims and ongoing services. You will be invited to a WeChat group that will have your account manager and admin support. In case you need quick access to your policy details or cards – they will be able to help. You can use this group if you have a question about your cover of which clinics and hospitals you can visit.
Is healthcare for expats in China private?
Foreigners and expats in China can opt for a private medical cover. This will be an addition to the free healthcare that is provided by the employer. It is a requirement in the country that all employed foreign nationals contribute towards social insurance. While it certainly doesn’t provide adequate level of protection for most foreigners, which is why a lot of expats go for additional health protection privately. In general, major drawback is lack of access to English speaking doctors and clinics.
Major cities in China experience huge increase in the number of private and international facilities being open every year. In those foreigners can find English speaking doctors without any problems. If you have social insurance provided by your employer then you can only reimburse costs in government run hospitals, meaning public sector. You will not be able to attend VIP or International sections, only general departments.
Private medical insurance in China on the other hand covers this loophole. And eventually gives you access to some of the major expat friendly medical institutions. Examples of such are United Family Health, Oasis International Hospital, Jiahui Health and Raffles Medical.
Is there private health insurance in China?
Yes, there is. Since 2005 there has been an increasing amount of foreign insurance companies entering China. This includes major providers such as Cigna, Aetna, Allianz and Bupa. Additionally, a lot lower tier companies such as Now Health, MSH, GBG, William Russell, Integra Global, AIG, and Generali. It is a very common practice for international companies to form a joint venture with local insurance company. Or in some cases with a bank that helps them with license and distribution. Examples are ICBC AXA, Cigna CMB, GBG Taiping.
In our experience majority of expatriates in China, around 75%, are currently insurance or have been insured in the past with one of the following companies: Allianz, MSH, Cigna, AXA or PingAn. There are many ways how you can tailor your plan, so it is always a good option to stick with one insurance provider on a long run. Main reason for this is due to continuation of coverage.
For instance, if there is a new chronic condition, it doesn’t mean that if you change insurance you can still enjoy cover for it. New insurance company will need to reassess it. This means they will apply special terms or even not cover condition at all. Which is why it is important to analyze the options available at start and continue with same insurance for the next years.
There is currently around 30 privately owned local insurance providers. Some of the major players are PingAn Health, ZhongAn, PICC and TianPing. Major drawback of why most expatriates in China prefer to go with international insurance companies instead is language barrier. Lastly, quite a few paperwork with local companies as well s ongoing hotline servicing will only be handled in Chinese language outside of working hours.
Can foreigners buy health insurance in China?
Foreigners in China can buy either global or China only health insurance plan from international or local insurance provider. As long as they meet requirements for enrollment and reside in in the country. At present there is around 280+ options that expats can purchase for their medical protection. Although in our experience 79% of them tend to buy a plan from one of the following: Allianz, Bupa, AXA, Aetna or MSH.
Getting expatriate health insurance in China will give you peace of mind of knowing that you won’t be facing bankruptcy due to major illness. Another reasons what we see from most clients it is convenience. Convenience comes in several forms, such as access to better healthcare in China.
With such insurance plans you are welcome to go to pretty much any private hospitals in China. Another big aspect what we see is important for expatriates in China is direct billing. Getting insurance plan in place is one thing, how about using it? If you always have to go through pay & claim procedure for every little outpatient thing – with time it might be troublesome. You also always need to check policy wording of your health insurance contract. As well as make sure what is the deadline for submitting claims.
Health insurance in China offers clients direct billing in almost all international hospitals. You will be given a medical card that you can use at the point of checking-in. As long as medical provider is on the network list of your insurance company, you can enjoy cashless treatments. Even if something such as MRI or PT scans will have to be pre-authorized, nurse at reception desk typically will take care of it.
How much does medical care cost in China?
Is medical costs expensive in China? This is the type of questions we often hear from potential clients. And the answer is, it primarily depends on what kind of medical facility you go to. In government run public hospitals you can see a specialist for as low as RMB 90 while overnight stay in a ward will not run you over RMB 300 a night.
However, many expats in China are not keen to such care and thus prefer to go to international and private style hospitals. Costs in those are significantly higher. The average costs of a life threatening situation in a private hospital in China will exceed RMB 900,000 or ~ USD 140,000. Whereas per night stay costs for room fee only varies between RMB 3,500 and RMB 5,000. Most expensive bills for inpatient care are related with ICU fees and treatments in coma. Costs for such are on average around RMB 15,000 per night not including drugs, doctor and nurse fees.
Cancer treatments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy typically costs RMB 300,000 – RMB 500,000 per year. Stroke or heart attached in a top rated heart hospital in Beijing or Shanghai will not leave much change from RMB 200,000 per case.
Average outpatient bills for a regular family doctor visit will be somewhere between RMB 600 and RMB 1,200. Visiting a specialist will be more towards a RMB 800-2,000 mark. Consultation on different therapies in an international clinic will present you a bill in RMB 800-RMB3,500 range. Mental health and other related care with internationally licensed psychologists will be towards RMB 2,200-4,000 mark.
Prices may also vary depending on city you living in. For example consultation with General Practitioner in Parkway Health Shanghai will roughly cost you around RMB 1000-1500. Not counting any scans or lab tests they prescribe you. Exact same consultation in Parkway Health in Suzhou will cost you typically 20% less. Same applies for other major hospital chains such as United Family, Raffless and Sino United Health.
For more information see our article regarding how much does it cost to see a doctor in China.
How much does a health insurance cost in China?
Average costs for a 35 years old person looking to get a major medical plan only in China is RMB 11,978 per annum. Data is accurate as of 2023. Premiums may vary largely with this type of plans if you have any deductibles as part of it.
Adding outpatient benefits (clinic doctor visits, prescriptions and therapies) to your health insurance plan in China will increase the premium to RMB 22,210. Premium range in the country is devastating. You can get a China expat health insurance plan with low limits for less than RMB 2,000. While more premium companies like Bupa can easily charge you RMB 100,000. Each company follows statistical approach when setting up premiums. Those in most cases depend on historical data of how such insurance plan performed on the market. In terms of both sales volume as well as amount of claims that have been made by clients.
By paying larger sum of insurance premium, almost always you may expect much higher limits. This goes in line with more value added services such as: Second Medical Opinion from insurance company’s own doctor team. Another example is concierge services where dedicated customer service team may help you with booking appointments. For more information on average costs of health insurance for expatriates in China please see here article on costs of health insurance for expats in China.
Lower premium always refers to less coverage. Additionally, copayments from your side as well as big exclusion lists. On top of that – any sub limits under your insurance cover such as daily outpatient maximum reimbursement limit. If you go over it, rest of expenses are on you and won’t be subject for reimbursement. There are other factors that determine the costs too such as your age, pre existing medical conditions, access to foreign and international doctors throughout the country, deductibles if any, and in rare occasions city where you live in China.