Medical Care in China: Which Service Is The Best For You & Your Family


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Medical Care or healthcare is widely available in China. A large number of hospitals are found in all of the cities, and most villages. The quality of medical care and facilities available can be very basic in the less densely populated areas of China. 

Major cities will typically have good healthcare facilities but it is always worth the time and effort to undertake your own research or speak to an advisor about the exact facilities available to you.

This research is best undertaken before an emergency occurs, so if the worst does happen, you will have your preferred facilities at your disposal.

If you have private health insurance however, most insurers will provide you with a list of the facilities available to you and have advisors who can make sure you use the most appropriate facilities to match you and your family’s needs.

Medical facilities in international hospitals are of a much higher standard with many pharmacological needs provided over the counter and prescribed medication enjoying the same availability as back in your home country.

Overall China has low achievements in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality, ranking 108th and 103rd respectively. If you are an expatriate working and living in China it is essential that you acquire comprehensive medical insurance to ensure you and your loved ones have an appropriate standard of healthcare.

Keeping Healthy While Overseas

When travelling to China, no vaccinations are required other than those for hepatitis. If you are going to make sure you have private insurance for your trip, it is still advisable to make necessary vaccination arrangements before you leave and consult with your doctor pre-departure so that you arrive already safely vaccinated. Consultation with a medical professional is advised as some of the common vaccinations considered but not required include:

Diphtheria
Tetanus
Hepatitis A and B
MMR
Typhoid
Tuberculosis

Public health issues in China are varied. The more publicized and severe examples have included that of swine flu which amounted to a total of 18 cases in China and cases of the variant avian flu.
It is highly unlikely that you would come into contact with such diseases, but caution should be exercised when entering areas with a high quantity of live poultry. Progress has been made in addressing other public health issues, including the eradication of malaria with the exception of isolated cases still found in the rural south-west.

The most common exposure to a potential public health issue will be your daily exposure to food and water. It is advised that expatriates only drink bottled water, as water treatment is still substandard compared with many developed countries.

Healthcare Professionals and Facilities

china-health-care-costs-feesIn Beijing and Shanghai you will have a number of private clinics that are both owned and managed by western professionals or Chinese staff that have trained overseas. They have the ability to treat patients to a standard they are more accustomed to back home but expatriates should note that the fees for such a service are usually high.

Our dedicated insurance consultants will help you determine which particular facilities will be suitable for you and your family’s needs. Paying for a private service is highly advised even in emergency medical situations. Ambulance and emergency services in China are subject to a lack of availability and the training and level of equipment on board is substandard. In an emergency insurers do plan for this eventuality, either providing their own evacuation and ambulance services or they will be working directly with private hospitals to ensure some kind of transportation should an emergency arise.

Ultimately, the foreign-run high cost facilities (HCF) are the most desired but reflect this desirability in the price they charge for care. This cost is greatly mitigated by having appropriate insurance in place. These foreign facilities are likely to accept expatriate health insurance plans as opposed to their public counterparts. They will also commonly have the ability to facilitate direct billing, whereby the insurer is billed directly and you as an expatriate will not have to await reimbursement for any treatment costs. Always check with an insurer which facilities accept your insurance and which facilitate direct billing.

Accessibility to public facilities is high, with open access to all, including foreigners. The cost of treatment is low but the quality of service and treatment is most likely not what you would be accustomed to back home. There is no appointment system and no outpatient general practitioner and non-essential consultation services. Few public facilities accept international insurance plans.

Importantly, if you are willing to use public facilities as an expatriate you must prepare yourself for a culture shock. Most staff will not be able to converse in English and the standards of hygiene and privacy will likely not match those you are used to.

Those public facilities that do have more high grade facilities, some even possessing foreigner wards, will still likely present a cultural barrier for an expatriate.

Pharmacological needs vary. Pharmacies will almost certainly not have English speaking staff unless they are hosted within a HCF or foreign facility. Some medicines for specific situations may also not be available due to restrictions. In this case, a good insurance provider will acquire the needed medicine on your behalf from somewhere like Hong Kong.

The Cost of Safety

Private health insurance can seem costly, particularly for foreigners who arrive from countries with a generous welfare system. However there is a gap between perception and reality in terms of private health insurance for expatriates. Inpatient and emergency care while in China can cost you as little as 6,000 RMB per year. This is a worthy investment when considering an emergency or serious condition could otherwise set you back in excess of $100,000.

More comprehensive and bespoke health insurance coverage or one inclusive of outpatient care will cost more. The starting price usually being around 20,000 RMB per year. However these packages can be heavily tailored to either reduce cost or add additional benefits such as dental and maternity care. Whichever scheme you ultimately opt for, it is essential to seek private health insurance to avoid becoming one of the many unfortunate reports of expatriates who do fall ill or suffer injury without insurance.

Busting money misconceptions for expats

financial-advisor-expats-chinaWhen you decided to become an expat, your finances were probably one of the main priorities for your attention. You had to weigh up whether you’d be better off financially abroad or back at home, and consider factors like medical insurance and school fees in your deliberations. But BlueStar AMG has found that many people who’ve started a new life in a foreign country allow money misconceptions to lull them into a false sense of financial security.

Lots of expats are paid substantially higher salaries than they would have received at home, while they may be getting an attractive package including health insurance or school fee subsidies. However, while things may look bright financially, it’s always vital not to rest on one’s laurels. No job is ever guaranteed in the long term and incentive packages can come with a shelf life. So it’s important to have a contingency plan for the future. This may include paying into a savings fund, investing in the stock market or putting your expendable income in other assets like property.

Think smart when it comes to saving money

Canny expats also know that they should live to their means. Many people rightly take advantage of being on a new continent, using their spare time eating out, visiting tourist hotspots and travelling to exotic locations. But it’s really important to make sure that you’re not being too frivolous with your money. We suggest saving some cash every month and considering other ways you can invest a portion of your income on a regular basis. Getting professional financial advice from the experts at BlueStar AMG will help you choose the right savings plan and investments for you. Once this is done, you can enjoy your hard-earned money with abandon!

Another misconception amongst expats is that there’s plenty of time to save up for children’s school and university fees. We all know that it can cost a small fortune to educate our children in Asia, but many people still don’t prepare for this in advance. It doesn’t matter if your child isn’t even walking yet – it’s never too early to start saving for their education. The sooner you start, the less you’ll need to find each month and the more you can save in the long run. You’ll thank yourself for it in years to come.

life-insurance-for-expats-chinaMeanwhile, some expats choose to gamble on their finances by not taking out life insurance or critical illness cover. They may think that, because they’ve never been seriously ill before, nothing will happen to them in the future. Indeed, they may look at people who’ve been struck by cancer or other life-threatening illnesses and think, “it’ll never happen to me”. But, unfortunately, none of us can say that with any certainty. And when you’re in a country without free healthcare, it’s absolutely imperative to make sure you’re covered by insurance. Without a detailed policy in place, you could be faced with the biggest bills of your life, right at a time when you need to focus on your health and nothing else.

For the very best advice when it comes to your finances, call on BlueStar AMG. We’ve got offices across Asia, with friendly teams waiting to take your call. For more information, visit www.bluestar-amg.com and follow us on Twitter for updates about the world of investments and savings.

Photo credits: SF Brit, 401kcalculator.org

New health insurance division for BlueStar AMG in China

health-insurance-expat-chinaWe’re delighted to announce that customers of BlueStar AMG in China can now benefit from a dedicated health insurance division which was launched this month.

This new service is open to individuals, families, groups and corporations, including locally registered companies – and is sure to provide you with real peace of mind for the future. With years of expertise in financial planning and management, our team of experts has all the tools they need to look in-depth at your specific insurance needs and give you independent advice that’s right for you.

We will take you through the process step by step, researching all the options available to you. You’ll be given comparative results from all the major international and domestic insurance companies which offer locally-regulated policies. This means you can be assured that you are getting the very best deal possible for your own personal circumstances.

If required, you will be able to use your insurance policy as a tax deductible item, while there is a number of local currency plans available. You will be aware how important health insurance is in China, where the costs of medical treatment can be astronomical – so do make sure that you, your loved ones, your colleagues and employees are covered in case the worst happens.

Our new health insurance offering adds to our ever-increasing portfolio of services which also includes pensions, QROPS, savings, education plans, asset management and property advice. With branches in six Asian countries, we support hundreds of clients each year with their financial needs – and they come back to us time and time again due to the excellent service we provide. New clients can always be assured that the advice we provide will be ethical, personalised and in line with current legislation.

For more information about BlueStar AMG and what we can do for you, visit our website at www.bluestar-amg.com and click on our Contact Us page for details of your nearest branch.

Arranging health insurance is a huge priority for expats

health-insrurance-us-uk-expats-asiaYou’ve taken the bold step of becoming an expat and moving to a new country for work. Your ‘to do’ list is undoubtedly bigger than ever before, with all manner of decisions to be made about where to live, where to send the kids to school and how to organise your finances. But whatever choices you make about your new life, one of the most important things you can do is to arrange health care insurance as soon as you can.

Put simply, getting ill in a foreign country could bankrupt you if you don’t take steps to protect yourself and your family. None of us likes to think that we’ll get a serious illness or have a terrible accident, but it’s vital not to put your head in the sand about the future.

When looking for the right cover for you, your insurance broker will consider your medical background – though a health check will usually not be necessary. Your age will be a factor in determining the cover you are offered; it is safe to assume that you will pay more for your premiums the older you are.

Be aware that pre-existing conditions will not normally be covered through your insurance, though this may be reconsidered if the illness doesn’t reoccur for a certain period of time after the start of your policy. You can extend your medical insurance to cover your partner (this also refers to same sex relationships) as well as your children, while some insurers will allow you to add on extras like dental and maternity care, plus winter and water sports. Be advised, however, that conditions like infertility will not usually fall under the insurance remit – and any kind of cosmetic surgery will usually be refused.

You may be lucky and have a health insurance plan provided by your new employer. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the terms of the agreement, so you are confident that you’ll be covered if you are hospitalised, for example, or if you need long-term treatment. And bear in mind that you are unlikely to remain under the policy if you leave your company.

The main thing to ensure when choosing the right healthcare policy is to get personalised, independent advice from a licensed firm. The professional, knowledgeable team at BlueStar AMG can talk you through all the options available to you, so please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. There’s more information about the services we offer on our website.