Health Insurance & Medical Cover for Expatriates in Shanghai, China

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The demand for quality healthcare that meets international standard within the neighborhood has been increased as the population of expatriates and affluent Chinese raises; especially when traveling to other cities in China, easy access of quality healthcare is often of good demand in the location near your stay. Currently, many healthcare providers are operating in limited locations with limited service offerings; many are limited by type of medical equipment and facilities.

The network healthcare providers are carefully selected based on its industry reputation, quality of care and facilities, including VIP and foreign wards of top public hospitals, and premium international hospitals and clinics. Patients will be referred to the network provider through 24-hour hotline; corporate healthcare requirements will be referred to the network providers through the corporate account managers or medical advisors.

Newly arrived expats in China have a lot of questions and concerns about health care and medical insurance — and well they should.  One of the big differences between China health care and the US system has to do with the notion of inpatient care and outpatient care.  You’ll find that in China, out-patient care can be a lot cheaper than it is in the US — but choices abound and quality varies widely.

‘Inpatient’ refers to the admission process. If you are admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay, you are an “inpatient”, and all of the procedures you undergo are considered inpatient procedures.

‘Outpatient’ or ‘ambulatory’ procedures involve walking in and walking out the same day. This kind of medical attention does not always require hospital facilities.

Example: John takes a spill at school and fractures his wrist.  That same day, his dad Bob has trouble with stomach ulcers.  They go to the hospital together.  Johnny is treated on an OUTPATIENT basis.  He’s x-rayed, wrapped in plaster and released that night.  Bob sees his doctor to get tests and a diagnosis.  The doctor’s visit, diagnostic tests and prescription are all ‘outpatient’ procedures. A month later, Bob is admitted to the hospital for a surgical procedure and will have to spend 2 nights there under observation. The hospital stay, surgery and associated expenses are all considered ‘inpatient’ procedures.

China expats have a few things to consider to understand how this applies to their particular situations.

1. Hospitals in China have gotten better – and more expensive. We used to be quite skeptical about international healthcare policies that covered outpatient care because it was so cheap — and of questionable effectiveness – in China. Nowadays the major cities in China offer international-style clinics for outpatient care that rivals (or surpasses) US HMOs. Unfortunately, the advances in care have been accompanied by advances in pricing.

2. Chinese inpatient care still doesn’t make the grade for many people. Prescribing, diagnosing, bandaging and setting in plaster are one thing – surgery and other sophisticated procedures are a different story. If you don’t have confidence in Chinese hospitals, you will want a policy that includes “medical evacuation”, medical travel, and choice of hospital and doctor. These features are expensive, but if you (or your firm) are willing to foot the bill then you can choose the doctor and hospital anywhere in the world for your procedure.

3. Does it cover me internationally? Expect to pay 200 – 300% more in premiums for policies that include coverage in the US. Don’t blame the Chinese or the international carrier for this – the US healthcare system is so expensive and Byzantine that you’ll have to pay through the nose. Many international policies include (or offer) provisions for emergency cover in the US for a limited time period.