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