Health Insurance

Health Insurance for Expatriates in China

Welcome to our country guide page providing economic, healthcare and health insurance information to expatriates living in China. Officially called the People’s Republic of China, China is the world’s most populous country and a sovereign state in East Asia.

China is can be found to the south of Mongolia and to the west of Japan:

China

China in numbers

Area 9.6 million km sp. *
Population (total) 1.35 billion *
Expat population 568,000**
Life expectancy 72 years for men. 76 years for women. *

*UN World Bank figures from 2014.
** Finaccord 2013 – Global Expatriate Report
www.finaccord.com

A useful summary of country information and data on China can be found here.

Healthcare in China

The Government of China has been working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for decades to improve the health and well-being of the people of China. China is aiming to provide universal health care coverage to all citizens by 2020. China’s WHO statistical profile can be found here.

The healthcare infrastructure in China – particularly within major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai – is getting closer to developed-world standards. However, accessing a high standard of healthcare within China is still a significant issue for expats and many take out international private medical insurance to ensure the right standard of medical care is available at all times. Most expats live in Shanghai and Beijing but Guangzhou and Shenzhen are becoming popular. Chengdu, Chongqing and Dalian are additional expat destinations

Treatment is available in public hospitals, international clinics within them and private facilities that cater to expats with international private medical insurance plans. In such a vast country the quality of care, ease of access and associated costs vary tremendously between different places.

Private medical insurance in China

The Chinese healthcare system is managed by the Ministry of Public Health. The system has been improving in recent years but still faces substantial challenges. China has no uniform system of private health insurance and, though heavily advised, health insurance is not generally a requirement for entry into China. Having said that, a number of embassies require proof of health insurance before issuing visas so it’s always worth checking. For general information on visas, this is a good place to start http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/visas/hrsq/

For the 568,000, expats living and working in China, Chinese public health insurance isn’t as comprehensive as may be expected. The state system generally only contributes to a proportion of the cost of medical treatment and premiums tend to be high even for the most basic insurance plans. Many expats take out an international private medical insurance policy for themselves and their dependants, if their employer does not provide it, to give them access to the better hospitals in China or elsewhere in the world should they need more specialist treatment.

Some public clinics have begun to open international wings to attract expatriates with international private medical insurance. The aim is to provide access to public healthcare closer to Western standards with English speaking medical staff to ease the communication challenges. The international wings share doctors with a hospital’s or clinic’s public facilities, but with reduced waiting times. Customer care is improved and and treatment costs can be less than private hospitals.

For more information from China’s healthcare system from the World Health Organisation, look at this website.

Important health information before you go

Before travelling to China, it is important to know the different types of health risks that you may be exposed to. Every country has its own health issues, endemic diseases and unique problems so pre-travel checks are essential. China has substantial health risks including air pollution, occupational and traffic hazards and many communicable infections that expats and short-term visitors need to be aware of.

For extended trips or moves abroad, vaccinations are usually required. There are several routine vaccinations advisable before entering China which include; Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, Tetanus and a yearly Flu shot. The table below provides a useful snapshot:

Disease Special precautions
Typhoid Yes
Hepatitis A Yes
Hepatitis B Seek advice
Japanese Encephalitis Seek advice
Polio Seek advice
Rabies Seek advice
Malaria Seek advice
Yellow Fever No (unless recently visited an affected area excluding the US)

 

For up to date information on vaccination requirements in China, click here.

SARS

In Spring 2003, the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) worldwide outbreak reached its highest levels with some 8,000 cases reported worldwide, with 66% of the cases and 349 deaths occurring in China. However, by early Summer 2003 the SARS epidemic had ceased and in 2004 the WHO announced that China was free of further cases. If you are an expatriate and have concerns about SARS in China, click here for more information.

Prescription drugs

When taking drugs from your home country overseas, it’s extremely important to find out if there are any restrictions about bringing them into your new destination. Also, medicines that are available in your home country will not always be obtainable in your new destination and may have different names, ingredients and restrictions. If you have an international health insurance policy, you can seek advice from your insurer or, to check the availability of prescription drugs in China, look at this website.

Health checks

Before leaving home and travelling to start your new life as an expatriate in China, everyone should have a thorough health check-up to detect any potential health problems. If possible this should be carried out at least two months in advance to permit time for any necessary treatment before departure.

Taking care of any special needs

If you or a family member has a pre-existing or special health condition, you will need to determine if and how it can be adequately treated in China. Regulations and care for those with physical or mental disabilities can vary greatly from country to country. It is vital to find out about any potential barriers from the outset. The first point of contact should be your consulate or embassy but your health insurer should also be able to provide advice. For a comprehensive list of consulates and embassies in China please click here

Food hygiene and health

Food safety has been a growing concern in China. Food regulations in the country are complex and monitoring systems can be unresponsive. The Ministry of Health, which encompasses general health policies, health law enforcement, children’s and seniors’ health policies, and disease and emergencies, now enforces food safety and hygiene inspections.

That said, it would be a shame to be continually fretting about what you are eating and drinking and miss out on experiencing one of the most exciting and diverse countries in the world for cuisine. So for handy tips and advice visit this website.

Medical Emergencies

China’s emergency services are run by the state’s emergency medical services. These are widespread and efficient in urban areas, but are less reliable in rural regions. Ambulances often have a physician on board. If you are an expat with an emergency in China, you’ll find the following numbers useful:
120 – Ambulance
119 – Fire Service
110 – Public Security Bureau

Healthcare Facilities

In 2011, there were 954, 389 healthcare facilities in China, including hospitals, primary care institutions, and other facilities. In-Patient beds totalled 5.16 million. Beijing is home to 29 high-end hospitals with special foreign clinics, all of which have strong reputations amongst expats. These include:

Peking Union Medical College
Beijing Friendship Hospital
International SOS Clinic
China-Japan Friendship
Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics
International Medical Centre Beijing