These are the three most popular choices among the clients we work with.
Over 60% of foreigners we meet choose one of those three insurance companies. There are exceptions, particularly if you want maternity coverage, need coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, or need worldwide coverage, which includes the United States. If we include MSH along with the other three companies, the percentage of our clients using the four firms would be close to 75%. Get in touch with us to learn more about China expat health insurance.
How to Choose Between the 5 Most Popular Insurance Companies?
Allianz is best for young families, people looking for high service levels, families from overseas and elders.
Now Health offers the most comprehensive benefits at the lowest price. Their therapy limits are one of the highest on the market and their maternity (pregnancy) plans provide the most value for money with automatic insurance* for kids.
*Refers to coverage of children regardless of their medical conditions at birth. Only very few providers can cover congenital conditions, premature birth or other serious pregnancy complications.
GBG is great for US nationals who need cost-effective insurance that offers coverage in the US as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions as they do cover most of them.
ICBC AXA offers one the best value for the money for people looking for peace of mind and coverage only in China.
Aetna offers plans similar to ICBC AXA but with “Western approach” to treating clients.
MSH is one of the best direct billings* networks in China. They offer great maternity plans with automatic insurance for kids as well as many no critical pre-existing medical conditions plans.
*Direct billing refers to cashless payment where the insurance provider settles the bill without your participation. Usually, it only requires you to present your medical card upon admission to outpatient care.
Here are the pros and cons for the major medical plans for expats in China.
Allianz is of the most reputable and oldest insurers in the world. They offer the fastest claims turnaround as well as adjustable plans in terms of deductibles. Allianz is also one of the very few companies that has benefits for none-prescribed physiotherapy. Their dental plan is one of the best on the market, with an RMB 15k limit per policy year. They are also very price-stable, with an average premium increase of around 6% over the past 7 years. Allianz plans are portable* to any country except the US, Germany, and Switzerland. The company has a mobile app and portal for managing your policy.
*Portability refers to insurance provider’s capability to transfer your plan overseas. This provides continuation of coverage, so if you get a plan from Allianz in China and in few years relocate to Singapore, they will be able to switch you to a new plan without cancelling your current plan. This ensures all pre-existing conditions continue to be covered.
There are two downsides to consider too. Wellness checkups as an optional upgrade don’t make sense if you’re over 43-years old. Adding an RMB 6k wellness limit will increase your premium by RMB 5k. Also, Allianz is one of the most expensive providers.
Now Health is not one of the traditional powerhouses, which discourages some people. However, their coverage is excellent. If you are more concerned about coverage for therapies, such as regular physio sessions for your lower back, consultation with a psychiatrist, or even alternative therapy sessions, Now Health has one of the highest limits for you and your family.
The outpatient coverage is also up to RMB 22-28 million, which is one of the highest in the market. If you or your kids needs orthodontic care, Now Health is one of the top picks along with Allianz due to the high benefit limits on dental care. The company offers many plan adjustments, with deductibles and co-payments. Their plans are also portable to any country except the US, Germany, and Switzerland. The company has a mobile app and portal for managing your policy.
The downside to consider is that they price based on age groups. If you turn 45 or 50 this year, you are in a higher age band and your premium increase might be quite hefty. Around 13%-16%. They also have one of the largest high-cost provider lists on the market. Places like Sino United or Global Health Care in Shanghai and OASIS in Beijing are high cost for them while not for many others.
The Aetna Comprehensive plan is one of the best value-for-money options available. It includes dental and wellness benefits without the need to pay extra, while costing the same as competitors who do not offer that option.
Aetna has one of the largest hospital networks worldwide (in the US they use the Aetna US network). Price increases have been very stable too. For example, in 2020-2021, their premium increase was one of the lowest in the market at around only 1.5%. They have a very user-friendly online portal, as well as one of the best direct billing networks in China.
There is a downside, though. Although Aetna is a global company, their plans are not portable to any country. Once you relocate out of China, you will have to apply for a new plan as a new member. The plan is also quite expensive for single-parent families as they are priced the same as a two-parent family.
ICBC AXA has similar plans to Aetna and offers a good value for the money. The company provides vaccination benefits for kids by default under its comprehensive plan, with no need to pay extra.
On the downside, their plans are focused on China, with no network of hospitals outside the Greater China region. They offer no portal or app for managing the policy, other than an official account on WeChat. As the mobile features are designed for Chinese users, complications can arise with even simple things such as entering Western names into the system.
MSH’s China Expat Insurance (CEI) plan was launched at the end of 2020 and has already become one of the most cost-effective solutions for outpatient coverage due to its pricing.
MSH does not sell this particular plan to local clients, focusing exclusively on the expat market. The MSH Premier plan is one of the best solutions if you plan to start a family and need protection for your child from Day 1 without any medical underwriting. This plan is also one of the very few policies on the market if you are looking for coverage for pre-existing conditions.
MSH offers both a mobile app and portal, as well as an excellent direct billing network both in and outside of China. Plans are also very price-stable, as the company tends to keep your premium at the same level as the preceding year if you meet the requirement of “low claims” (usually less than 20% of the policy premium).
On the downside, the CEI plan does not provide any mental health benefits. These benefits are only available with one of the upper-tier plans, such as Advance or Premier. All plans also have a sub-limit for physio sessions starting at RMB 1,200 per visit, which won’t be enough for several private facilities such as Parkway where one physio session is priced at RMB 1,400 and above.
Many people don’t realize that your satisfaction with a healthcare plan is highly dependent on the quality of the insurance company’s services. Your family can have a great plan, but if there are always problems using the insurance, or claims are paid incorrectly, it can be problematic.
The information below will teach you about the various price vs. service trade-offs. We will explain which health insurance companies in China offer good value and which you should avoid.