In China, payment is settled before medical treatment. Suppose you have an accident or get seriously ill, you need urgent care, but you don’t have enough money on hand. In times like these, medical insurance can not only get you immediate treatment, but also help reduce the overall medical bill. There are multiple options for health insurance in China, all of which come with different benefits for the price. In this publication, we introduce China’s medical insurance plans for foreigners, talk about the pros of having medical insurance, necessary insurances, insurance companies, hospital options for foreigners in China and how to make a doctor’s appointment at hospitals.
Medical insurance for foreigners in China:
Foreigners living in China can have 2 types of medical insurance: social medical care insurance and commercial insurance.
A. Social medical care insurance:
(1) All employees in China, including foreigners, are covered by social medical care insurance. Most Chinese companies buy social medical care insurance for their employees. It is jointly paid by the employee and the employer. The employer pays 6% of the employee’s total salary, which will be used for going to hospitals and some treatment for outpatients with chronic diseases. And the employee contributes 2% of his salary, which will be put into a special personal medical account, called the social security card or She Bao Ka in Chinese.
With the card, you can enjoy the same “real-time settlement” treatment as Chinese people, if you go to a designated hospital for medical treatment. It can be used to pay your medical costs, so you are less burdened with medical fees. If you are injured when working in China, you can get compensation. You can also receive a pension after retiring if you have paid for such social insurance in China for at least 15 years.
(2) But if you work as freelancers, consultants and small businessmen, you have to pay for your own health insurance at the local Human Resources and Social Security office.
B. Commercial insurance:
If social insurance fails to meet your needs, you can also buy commercial insurance.
Benefits of buying a private insurance in China:
(1) Direct billing
Direct billing means the hospitals directly bill your insurance company. Hospitals establishing a direct billing agreement with insurance companies support direct billing service, which facilitates the procedure of seeing a doctor and greatly improves the efficiency.
(2) A broker providing help
You can ask the company’s brokers for help if you want to know the types of insurance, the areas of coverage as well as the details of the insurance. A broker will give you suggestions and help you to choose a proper insurance based on your needs. Therefore, you don’t have to do these cumbersome things.
Insurance options for foreigners in China:
(1) National health insurance
National health insurance can reimburse the cost of drugs and medical examinations in the national health insurance catalog in public hospitals for outpatient and inpatient treatment. Usually, employers buy for employees, including foreigners working in China.
(2) High-end medical insurance
High-end medical insurance covers extensive areas, including inpatient, outpatient, maternity, dental, vision, vaccines and medical examinations. Its reimbursement is generally in excess of 10 million yuan. Serving mainland China, greater China and the world, high-end medical insurance can be used in a public hospital including its international department, private hospitals as well as expensive hospitals. Only foreigners who live in China for more than 180 days within a year can buy high-end medical insurance.
(3) Accident insurance
Strange environment for new foreigners may increase the risk of accidents, so it is a good choice to buy accident insurance. Usually, many companies and colleges purchase group accident insurance, but it has limits – less insured amount and mostly used in public hospitals. You can choose the best depending on your demands.
Factors to pay attention to when choosing an insurance:
You have to check whether the hospital you intend to go to cooperates with the insurance company, or your insurance will not work.
You need to verify the coverage of the insurance, such as vaccinations, chiropractic treatment, Chinese medicine treatment, etc. Also, high-cost provider coverage is worthy of high attention. You have to check with the insurance company whether the coverage of the hospital you want to go is classified as a high-cost hospital or not. If so, you have to pay an extra premium and are excluded from being covered by the health insurance.
(3) Pre-existing Conditions
You have to affirm whether your pre-existing conditions are covered.
(4) Waiting time
Waiting time refers to the time you have to wait until your insurance takes effect. You have to pay for yourself to get treated during waiting time.
You have to know how much you need to pay before your insurance pays for you.
(6) Direct Billing
You have to check whether the hospital you want to go to has a direct billing agreement with your insurer so that the insurance company can pay directly for treatment and doctor visits.
If you buy high-end medical insurance, you are required to get a pre-authorization letter from the insurance company before you receive the service of hospitalization, large-scale imaging examinations (CT/MRI/CT-PET), outpatient treatment for major diseases, such as radiotherapy, kidney dialysis, etc. The insurance company will have a quick review of your application before you enjoy direct payment claims. Clients who do not make a reasonable pre-authorization request as required may face difficulties in reimbursement. In case of an emergency situation, you can notify the insurance company within 48 hours afterwards.
Where to buy insurance in China:
You can search insurance companies on the Internet to know about different kinds of insurance and their details. But it requires a lot of time and energy.
A. Insurance agents
On behalf of his working insurance company, an insurance agent only sells their own insurance products.
B. Insurance brokers
An insurance broker stands for the interests of the client, so he provides various types of insurance, including life, medical, and commercial insurance, from different insurance companies. He introduces the details of each insurance so that you can make the best choice. If you have any questions about the insurance, you can ask the broker for help. He will serve you wholeheartedly at any time.
Insurance company options:
(1) Ping An
As one of the largest domestic insurance companies in China, Ping An provides high-quality health insurance service for foreigners in China. Its wide direct billing network is not only established in Mainland China, but also overseas. For example, direct billing is available in United Health Care Globe (UHCG) and Active Care Management (ACM). You can call its bilingual hotline for insurance products and claim information.
(2) Mobility Saint Honoré (MSH international)
MSH International is a global leader in the design and management of international health insurance. With four regional headquarters in Paris, (France), Toronto (Canada), Dubai (Middle East) and Shanghai (China), MSH international provides multilingual services for 24 hours everyday. Customized insurance products and competitive maternity insurance are offered.
Allianz is the largest insurance company in Europe, it has a branch in China. Its inpatient-only insurance plans in China are a major feature and its insurance products are of competitive price. Its direct-billing network are wide, covering many countries in the world. A wide range of pre-existing conditions are covered is another feature.
(4) Bupa China
Bupa is committed to offering high-end health insurance plans and international customer service for global clients. It establishes a branch in Beijing, China. With a strong direct billing network, it cooperates with many medical institutions worldwide. Companies planning to buy group insurance for employees can choose Bupa. If the insured employees of a company exceed 10 people or more, pre-existing conditions can be covered in the insurance.
Hospital options for foreigners in China:
(1) Public hospitals with an international department
English services are provided here with fewer people and a better environment than in a regular local hospital.
Shanghai General Hospital International Medical Care Center (IMCC)
Public Hospital International Department
Address: 585 Jiulong Road (near Haining Road), Hongkou District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 6324 0090
(2) Private hospitals usually with English services
Services here are close to those in a western hospital in the US and Europe. Fewer patients here, so you can get treatment in a fast pace. But you will cost more than in public hospitals.
Shanghai Renai Hospital
Address: 133 Caoxi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 5489 3781
(3) High-cost provider
Extra premium are required in a high-cost hospital to cover fees excluded from being covered by the health insurance. Most high-cost providers are private hospitals and are classified by insurance companies, so you need to check with them whether the hospital you plan to visit is classified as a high-cost provider.
A. Shanghai United Family Hospital
Address: 1139 Xianxia Road, Changning District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 400 639 3900
B. Raffles Medical Shanghai
Address: Lv 2, 1801 Hongmei Road, Innov Tower, Xuhui District, Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 6197 2300
How to make a doctor appointment?
(1) Call the hotline of the hospital.
(2) Visit the hospital’s websites and apps, such as WeChat official account.
When making an appointment, you can notify the hospital if covered by an insurance. And the hospital will register you as an insurance customer. Later, your insurance can work.
If you need an emergency:
(1) Call 120, the nationwide number for ambulance services in China.
(2) Take some cash in case that cash payment is required for ambulance services.
(3) The ambulance service of some private hospitals are faster than that of public hospitals.
For COVID-19 related inquiries:
A. For foreigners in China who test positive for COVID-19
(1) Foreigners in China who have social security medical insurance can have most fees reimbursed by the insurance.
(2) Otherwise foreigners have to pay the fees by themselves.
B. COVID-19 Vaccination for foreigners
(1) If covered by the social security medical insurance of China, foreigners can be inoculated for free as Chinese citizens.
(2) If not, foreigners in China have to pay RMB 100 per dose on their own.