By Jane Li | 25 Mar 2024

How international health insurance helps you as an expat in China.

China is a nation of opportunity and an attractive destination for expats. Discover the benefits of having international health insurance if you grab the chance to move there.


If you’re planning to move to China to work or study, you have several options available for accessing healthcare when you need it. One of those options is paying into a basic public health insurance plan to access public health services and facilities.

If you’re moving to China to work, your employer will also make contributions to your basic public health insurance plan. In this scenario, your employer may also provide you with private health insurance as part of your employment and benefits package.

But, whatever your situation, there are several reasons why you should consider investing in a private health plan to supplement your access to either your basic plan or the insurance your employer provides.

Let’s explore them.

The public healthcare system may not cover all your costs or family

While China's public healthcare system has undergone substantial reforms this century, some significant gaps remain. For example, you may be left with out-of-pocket costs for emergency transportation and other needs, with only some of your costs covered by the country's basic public health insurance.

As well as treatment, the public healthcare system may not cover all of your costs for any medicines you need that are on the National Reimbursement Drug List. Not only will a private health plan cover your costs for these medicines, but it may also enable you to access medicines not on the list.

Public healthcare often means long wait times and a lack of specialists and language assistance

Public healthcare spending in China more than tripled between 2009 and 2018, and it’s estimated that over 95% of the country's population now has basic health insurance.

However, many public health facilities still struggle with patient numbers, leading to long wait times for treatment and sometimes jam-packed clinics and hospitals. When living in an unfamiliar country, it's preferable not to have to deal with these things. Having a private health plan will mean avoiding long waits and crowded facilities.

In addition, you will typically only find Chinese language services in the public areas of the country’s healthcare facilities.

Finally, while China's healthcare facilities continue to improve, some geographic locations and medical disciplines lack specialists, which can also contribute to long wait times to see a consultant or undergo treatment.

Private healthcare in China can be expensive

When any public healthcare system doesn't fully meet your needs, your primary option is often the private sector.

Private healthcare in China tends to be expensive. If you rely solely on the basic system without any private insurance provision, you'll likely have to choose between waiting for treatment or paying substantial out-of-pocket costs to get the attention you need. Mainland China’s public hospitals do often have international divisions and “VIP” departments, but these too are expensive.

While you may want to avoid paying for private health insurance if you have access to public healthcare, consider what you would do in the above scenario. Even a basic level of private health insurance could give you peace of mind and allow you to see a doctor whenever needed.

Although private healthcare in China is expensive, international health insurance to cover the costs of using these facilities doesn't have to be. In 2023, we launched our SimpleCare plans in China, allowing you to benefit from access to world-class medical facilities across the country at an affordable cost.

View our international health insurance plans here.

But it’s of exceptionally high quality

It may be expensive, but China's private health facilities have a reputation of providing some of the best service in the world. This is partly due to the sector being very entrepreneurial, with providers competing to provide the highest quality health services. Some private hospitals in the country are even described as "spa-like," while the international and “VIP” departments in public hospitals are of a similar stature. You’ll be able to access some these with an international health plan, too!

So not only will an international health insurance plan help to reduce your costs if you need to use China’s private healthcare facilities, but it’ll also give you access to some of the best hospitals on the planet and the ideal environment for rest, recuperation, and making a speedy recovery.

Added value services make your life easier

These days, private health insurance is typically not just insurance but a collection of well-being services that combine to help make your life easier.

For example, if you choose one of our WorldCare plans, you get access to our Member Assistance Programme, which includes services like mental health, legal and financial guidance, and support with the challenges of relocating overseas.

Our WorldCare plans also provide Second Medical Opinion and Global Concierge services, giving you even more choice about how you receive healthcare. In addition, if there is ever a time when you can get your treatment at a public hospital quicker than at a facility in our network, we’ll make your appointment for you so you can get the attention you need as soon as possible.

We now also offer a Pharmacy Delivery Service to members in China who take medication for chronic conditions, meaning you can get everything you need delivered to your home or place of work for added convenience.

Get peace of mind with a Now Health International plan

Here at Now Health International, China is one of our primary markets. We're experienced at covering individuals and families living in the country and have access to an extensive network of private medical facilities. As of March 2024 our direct billing medical network in China alone consists of 400 medical providers in 40 cities, with most able to offer consultations in English as well as Chinese.

On top of this, our partners in China have on-site representation at most of the medical facilities in our network, as well as at public hospitals, meaning you can always get any help you need with Direct Billing or other claim admin issues.

And thanks to our SimpleCare plans, you can now enjoy access to some of the best healthcare facilities in the world at an affordable price.

View all our plans or get a quote now!