China has a very different concept of medical care to the West and I found it confusing at first. People visit their Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner often to keep their health in order, even before they are experiencing any problems. This might seem like an odd idea, but in many cases, the job of a TCM practitioner is preventative. Rather than being paid to treat sick patients, their job is to stop them getting ill in the first place.
TCM practitioners work with concepts such as meridian lines and ‘chi’ or energy in the body, to keep their patients in good health. This approach is gaining increasing interest in the West with treatments such as acupuncture growing in popularity.
However, most expats prefer a healthcare system they are more familiar with. This means drugs that have undergone clinical trials and hospitals that conform to the Western ideal of care. And while local-style treatments are relatively inexpensive in China, Western healthcare often carries a premium. So for this reason, good international medical insurance in China is essential.
In this post, I’ll look at arranging medical insurance in China in more detail. If you’re moving there soon, you might also find it useful to read more about becoming an expat in our free eBook The New Expat.
Getting insured for treatment
So how do you ensure that your medical insurance in China is comprehensive enough for your needs? Believe it or not there can be a big difference between health policies. In the first instance, my advice would be to research the company underwriting the policy thoroughly.
It’s also worth talking to people who have claimed on their medical insurance in China to find out how easy the process was for them. Then ask your would-be insurer some questions. Can I access a reputable and sizeable medical network so I don’t have to pay for treatment upfront? If I do have to pay for medical treatment and claim my expenses back, what is the process and how fast will you reimburse me? This alone can mark out an insurer who is genuinely interested in providing good service to one who takes your money and leaves you to untangle their paper trail when it comes to claiming. The cheapest medical insurance in China is not necessarily the best, particularly if it can’t deliver support when you need it most.
How to arrange medical insurance in China
If you’re planning to travel in China or heading there for work, the easiest route is to arrange your medical insurance before you leave. At the very least, make sure you have cover for major medical treatment – but look carefully into the small print. Always check to make sure if there are any limits in place on particular benefits. Not every benefit will be covered up to the annual maximum limit so if you really want comprehensive cover for certain conditions, doing this research is very important.
If you’re an employee of an international company, then your employer may arrange your medical insurance for you. However, you should always double-check this. It is relatively straightforward to organise medical insurance once you’re in China, but you don’t want to risk leaving yourself without cover. If you arrive in China and find out that you don’t have any insurance in place, the norm is to arrange cover through an intermediary, as buying goods and services online is not as developed as in the West. Some insurance providers are able to arrange cover on a direct basis, but you’ll need to check, as this is not always the case.
A final thought
Finally, if you’re looking to try out any Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s very common for it to be covered as standard if you have chosen a plan that covers out-patient expenses. It’s worth noting though as I said earlier, even though many local Chinese people will use Traditional Chinese Medical on a preventative basis, it’s very unlikely for an international health insurance plan to reimburse you if want to use it on this basis. Most insurance providers will only cover you if a doctor or specialist has referred you.
For more on making the move abroad, don’t forget to download our free eBook The New Expat which covers medical considerations, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and much more.
If you have any questions or thoughts on the points covered in this post, please leave a comment below or connect with us @now_health on Twitter.