As a former Beijing expat, there were more occasions than I anticipated where I was in need of good healthcare. In those times of crisis, I appreciated having the insurance I needed. If you are an expat or even just a traveler in China, I strongly recommend obtaining health insurance to cover your trip. Today's post is sponsored by NOW Health International, and provides great insights into Chinese healthcare and insurance.
--Courtney Gould Miller
[Beijing: photograph by Cobble CC]
What to expect if you require medical treatment in China
Undoubtedly, expat life is full of thrills. Being able to live and work in a foreign country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and develop, both personally and professionally.
And there are few better places to sample life in the expat community than in China. Millions of expats now live and work in this exciting country and have played a major part in turning the nation into a global economic power.
However, being an expat also presents challenges, especially when it comes to staying healthy. If you and your family are considering relocating to China, reading this article should give you a good basic idea of the Chinese healthcare system.
An overstretched public healthcare system
The most populous country in the world has just 12,600 hospitals – not a lot when you consider the population is over 1.3 billion. Even though only 80 per cent of the population is covered by the national healthcare system, it is easy to understand why Chinese healthcare services and facilities are under enormous pressure.
Standards and quality are subject to huge variation, depending on the area. The major Chinese metropolis, like Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou offer services and treatments similar in quality to those in Western countries. The principal Chinese cities now boast the so-called ‘gaogan bingfang’, which are dedicated VIP wards equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology.
However, it must be noted that these come at a price, and treatments at these hospitals can cost up to ten times more than in Western countries. Moreover, you could experience problems finding the right medical assistance in rural China or outside the major cities.
Language barriers and vaccinations
The language barrier is another consideration that must be taken into account. There are many English-speaking doctors in China, however, it could be difficult to find one should you need urgent medical attention in an emergency. In other cases, the facilities are extremely basic, and some clinics even refuse to treat foreigners. The same applies to dental care.
Diseases like hepatitis B are endemic in China, so it is crucial that you are given a full course of vaccinations before arrival. Communicable diseases like SARS, hand, foot and mouth disease, tuberculosis, avian flu, and other pandemic outbreaks are common in China.
Also bear in mind that natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding can be common in East China.
The advantage of an international healthcare plan
Under the current public healthcare system, foreigners can access public hospitals and receive treatment upon payment of one-off fees. However, not all public hospitals accept foreign medical insurance.
It therefore makes sense that expats do not to rely on the public healthcare system and purchase private health insurance instead. Even if you plan to access medical care on a ‘pay-as-you-need’ basis, health insurance pays off, as the costs of evacuation could rise well above $98,700 USD (£64,000 GBP).
While buying private insurance in China is possible, it is recommended that expats purchase an international healthcare insurance plan prior to departure. This will eliminate potential problems such as language barriers and other misunderstandings.
What to look for when choosing medical insurance
The best insurance providers will offer flexible and comprehensive cover plans, as well as a dedicated support team that is readily available when needed.
And since relocating to another country is a stressful situation, knowing that you and your family are covered can make the transition easier, adding to your peace of mind.