Beijing Healthcare & Expat Health Insurance

One of the world’s most historic capital cities with a history dating back thousands of years city of around 21 million citizens means that there is no shortage of choice in Beijing for expats seeking health insurance and high standard care.

Health issues for expats in Beijing

Pollution is a very serious issue in Beijing and one of the biggest complaints from expats and locals alike. It is very common for the air to be classed as “hazardous for sensitive groups” on certain days by the monitoring authorities. Visibility on some days can occasionally drop to a few hundred metres. OWC suggest doing further research of your own on this topic if you have any doubts about living in Beijing.

The city is also subject to occasional sandstorms which can sometimes be severe and add to the poor air quality. However these are not especially frequent.

It’s inadvisable to drink the tap water in Beijing as in any other place in China, but it is safe for washing and preparing food. Some modern housing complexes are equipped with specialized taps for drinking water which are attached to central water tank which is supplied with fresh drinking water. Failing that bottled drinking water is easily deliverable.

You’ll find the winters in Beijing to be cold, temperatures average around -4c or 25f in January and can deep much lower for days on end. During the coldest months pollution is at its worst and combined with the traditional prevalence of winter coughs and sneezes this can be a bad time of year for staying in excellent health. This is even more of an issue if you have younger children who may be more susceptible. There is usually quite a bit of snowfall every year in Beijing which may amuse your children but be careful, some outdoor areas may not be treated with salt and grit and may be very slippery underfoot.

Safety in Beijing

Generally speaking Beijing is very safe. As the seat of the government public security is highly visible so for some this can be reassuring. For others it may seem a little alien and be a constant reminder that they are in a foreign country. But these are issues which can play on people’s minds especially when encountered every day.

A thriving street food culture can be found in Beijing, particularly chuanr which are kebab-like sticks with cooked meat and vegetables. Whilst these can be delicious, caution should be exercised before indulging in these which are eaten by millions of Beijingers – take a good look at the meat and make sure it’s cooked properly.

In Beijing it’s possible to use local hospitals for minor illnesses and these provide very cheap treatment which can be paid for directly without the need for insurance. However if something more serious happens you can face very expensive bills no matter what kind of facility you use. So if you’re living in Beijing, health insurance is essential.

Top International Hospitals for Expats in Beijing

Fortunately in Beijing you have access to a variety of different types of medical facility, everything from public hospitals to public VIP wards and private medical hospitals and clinics.

International medical facilities are hospitals or clinics which use international-standard management practices and service standards. To put it another way international clinics are similar to the GP or family doctor services you would find in Western countries. As an added bonus they usually have better service and accessing treatment is very prompt.

Possible Disadvantages of International Hospitals & Clinics in Beijing

  • Sometimes the best doctors for rare or serious medical conditions can only be found in public hospitals and their VIP wards.
  • As the clinics are run for profit they sometimes recommend more intervention or medication than is necessarily in your best interests.
  • International clinics are expensive, a typical doctors consultation fee is between CNY 1,000 and CNY 3,000 – so make sure you’ve got good medical insurance.
  • Not all insurance plans cover all international clinics. Some clinics, such as United Family Health, are designated as ‘high-cost providers’ by insurance companies and most plans do not cover them or only partially cover these medical facilities.

Popular International Clinics in Beijing

Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU) is arguably Beijing’s best-known international facility. It classified as a high-cost provider for medical insurance. The hospital has imported medical equipment and modern facilities, and has the capability to treat medical issues from minor ailments all the way up to severe illnesses. They have a 24 hour emergency and intensive care services which are among the most advanced in Beijing.

Beijing United Family was the first medical facility in China to receive accreditation from the nonprofit, Joint Commission International (JCI). This mean the facilities and standard of care meet an international standard and are comparable with the best medical facilties in the US and Europe.