Guide to The Most Popular Expat Health Insurance Plans in China

At China Expat Health we have thousands of expatriate clients. As a result, we’re in a good position to look at which insurance companies, plans and benefits are popular with expats in China and why.

To understand which insurance companies and plans are popular first you need to understand what benefits expats value most.

Most medical insurance plans can be broken down into the following categories: core cover/inpatient only cover and optional extras such as outpatient, dental, wellness (health check-up), optical (eyeglasses) and maternity. If you’re unfamiliar with any of the benefit terms, check out our medical insurance dictionary page.

Take a look at the below chart which shows the popularity of health insurance benefits of our Clients

As you can see both optical and maternity are relatively niche choices and are only chosen by people with specific needs. A whopping 76% have outpatient cover in their plans. The second most popular option is what we would call ‘The Comprehensive Package’. It includes inpatient and outpatient but also includes dental and wellness coverage.

Did You Know You Can Choose Different Hospital Network Options?

Another consideration when buying expat medical insurance in China is whether or not you want access to high-cost providers? If you choose to limit access to certain hospitals and clinics which cost more you can drastically reduce your insurance premiums. But how popular is this option?

As you can see with 84% choosing it, the copayment option is very popular. I guess the 25% – 35% discount available on these options is too good to ignore. However, we do find the high-cost provider fully covered option more popular with our Beijing clients as there aren’t many good options outside of United Family Hospital – which is number 1 on the high-cost list.

Co-payments & Deductibles

Given the popularity of high-cost provider co-payments, you would think that other copayments and deductible options would also be popular. However this isn’t the case, only 3% of our clients choose plans with other co-payments or deductibles.

Personally, I find this odd as adding a small outpatient or inpatient deductible can reduce the price of insurance quite a bit. Even my own insurance has a deductible. Inpatient deductibles are a great way to reduce your insurance premiums, however only Now Health and Cigna have decent options for these.

China Medical Insurance Companies And Their Plans

So to recap, the most popular plan option is the ‘Standard Package’ with inpatient and outpatient cover, followed by ‘The Comprehensive Package’ which includes dental and wellness and finally the inpatient-only plan. All 3 with a side of high-cost provider co-payment.

So how do the insurer’s and their plans stack up against these requirements? We scored the major health insurance companies based on 4 factors: affordability and coverage level for the standard package and comprehensive package plans, as well as the insurance companies’ reputation and service levels.

As you can see, three insurance companies fair better than the rest, Allianz Care, Now Health and ICBC AXA. Clearly, our clients are making great choices based on accurate and usable information as this corresponds with the 3 most popular plans choices among our clients.

Over 80% of our clients choose one of those three insurance companies. There are exceptions, particularly if you want maternity insurance or Worldwide cover which includes the United States.

How To Choose Between The 3 Most Popular Insurance Companies?

People who feel safer with a well-known international brand tend to choose Allianz Care, it offers the perfect mix of brand value, service levels – particularly international service levels – compared with the higher cost. Their plans are also portable, which means if you leave China you can take your insurance with you, this isn’t the case for ICBC AXA.

Now Health is attractive because the price sits in between ICBC AXA and Allianz and offers more cover than either of them. They aren’t one of the traditional health insurance powerhouses, which discourages some people, however, the cover is great. In addition, they have the best underwriters of all the insurance companies we know, so if you have pre-existing conditions, you will be treated fairly at Now Health and will have a much higher chance of being accepted with good terms. Now Health plans are also portable to other countries.

ICBC AXA is by far the most affordable and has good cover and reliable service if you’re mainly using the insurance within Mainland China. If you want a comprehensive package with dental and wellness then they offer the best value plans meeting these requirements. The plans are flexible and there are a number of ways to reduce the premium. For a no-frills insurance plan that works, ICBC AXA is a great choice option.

Last But Not Least! Which Area of Cover Is The Most Popular?

In order to keep this information simple, I’ve intentionally left this section until the end. Expats and foreigners in China usually spend 90% of their time within Mainland China. As such anyone who is price conscious usually chooses Mainland China or the Greater China (inc. Hong Kong, Taiwan & Macau) coverage area. This is a savvy choice as most plans cover ‘outside area emergency cover’ as standard: meaning for life-saving treatment needed when outside of China it is usually also covered under the plan.

Having said that some expats spend a significant amount of time travelling or on business outside of China. For these lucky people, getting a Worldwide excluding US area of cover saves them time, effort and in the event of an accident or illness, money. Buying travel insurance multiple times a year is a pain and it doesn’t cover any pre-existing conditions or ongoing medical issues you may be facing.

Regarding full worldwide cover…almost nobody buys this option because it is very high-cost. This leaves a lot of difficult choices for US expats on whether they should buy full US cover or not. If you’re used to buying medical insurance in the US the price shouldn’t come as too much of a shock. However, if you’re only spending a few weeks a year in the US…is it really worth it? For those who are interested in this, by far the best value for money option actually comes from GBG (Global Benefits Group) who is a US-based international medical insurance company. Second on the list to consider is Now Health.

Still Confused?

If you want to know more and have questions, why not speak to one of our expert consultants? You’re under no obligation to move forward with any options we present.