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International Health Insurance for Expats in China

Learn about international health insurance options for expats in China. Pacific Prime offers international health insurance plans with customizable coverage.

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Health Insurance for Expats and Foreigners in China 

Expats in China can choose international health insurance or enroll in public health insurance if they are eligible. Public healthcare coverage and care can vary, so many expats buy international health insurance plans. 

Expats moving to China should consider the quality of the healthcare system in China as well as how to use it with public or private health insurance.

At Pacific Prime, our experts can help you find the necessary insurance plan for your trip abroad. Keep reading to learn all about your health insurance options in China.

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Top International Health Insurance Plans for Expats in China

The best international health insurance plan for expats in China will offer comprehensive coverage and customizable benefits. 

Here is a list of the best international health insurance providers in China: 

As an insurance broker, Pacific Prime negotiates between customers and insurance companies to find them the best possible plan for their budget and medical needs. Because we aren’t tied to one specific insurer, we can give impartial advice as we help you compare plans.

Health Insurance Options for Specific Groups of Expats In China

Groups of expats in China like students and Americans have different health insurance options. There are international health insurance plans available that fit these lifestyles and needs. 

Expat students: Expats who move to China to study should buy a health insurance plan that offers flexible term options, as well as customizable benefits. Some benefits that can be popular with students are counseling services and doctor visits. 

American expats: US citizen expats who plan on relocating to the US every so often should look for a plan that covers them both in the US and China. Some plans are more expensive when you include the US, so be aware of that.

The Healthcare System in China

China provides free public basic healthcare under the country's social insurance plan. It also covers most expats depending on the region they’re in. Expats looking for treatment in China will find that the quality of healthcare varies significantly from place to place.

Hospitals in metropolises like Shanghai and Beijing are of a higher quality than those in smaller cities and towns. Rural regions have less English-speaking staff which can make care more confusing for expats who aren’t fluent in Chinese. 

Using the Healthcare System in China

Expats can use the healthcare system in China through four main options: public medical institutions (this includes hospitals and clinics) VIP wards, private medical institutions, and international medical institutions. 

Public medical institutions: Public clinics and hospitals are most widely used by Chinese citizens. The care offered by these institutions depends on the region, with longer wait times and less privacy in more crowded hospitals. 

VIP hospital wards: You can usually find VIP wards inside public hospitals. Like international hospitals and clinics, they have English-speaking staff. They are also similar to international hospitals in that they offer similar services at around the same price range. 

Private medical institutions: Private hospitals and clinics offer more private facilities with shorter wait times. The prices for these facilities can be high, so having a private insurance policy is recommended before using a private hospital. 

International medical institutions: International clinics are located in expat-dense districts. International hospitals, on the other hand, are concentrated in the suburbs. The staff there can speak English, as well as a handful of other languages. 

All of China’s hospitals follow a three-tier system, with tier-one hospitals being the most specialized and highest quality, with tier-one being the lowest quality. All tier-three hospitals are public, while most private and international are tier-one or tier-two.

China’s Universal Healthcare Coverage

China offers universal healthcare for its citizens and even foreign residents, but this coverage can vary due to region. China’s central government oversees national health legislation and administration. Local governments are in charge of providing healthcare services. 

Since local governments are in charge of providing healthcare, some rural towns may not offer healthcare to expats. 

Basic medical insurance provided by the government usually covers: 

  • Inpatient hospitalization care
  • Primary and specialist care
  • Mental health care
  • Emergency care
  • Physical therapy
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Select dental services like teeth extractions

It does not cover dental cleanings, most optometry services, hospice or home care, or durable medical equipment.

Comparing Private and Public Healthcare in China

Public healthcare can range widely in quality. Hospitals in cities like Beijing have modern equipment and a full staff. Rural hospitals are often overcrowded, understaffed, and lacking in resources and quality care.

Facilities in the private healthcare sector are more modern, cleaner, and less crowded. Most expats choose private or international hospitals for care that is similar to Western hospitals.

Fees charged in private and international facilities can be very expensive. Sometimes, even more expensive than the fees charged in the US. Expats should secure private health insurance in China to offset these potentially high costs.

International Insurance in China - Plans and Coverage

International health insurance plans can cover inpatient and outpatient services, maternity, dental, optical, mental health, emergency evacuation repatriation, and more depending on the plan and provider you choose. 

Expats have a vast selection of international insurance companies for coverage in China, such as Aetna, Cigna, and more. We will cover each provider below with an overview of the features of their respective plans. 

Aetna

Aetna is a Fortune 100 company in the United States of America and offers expats access to quality healthcare in 200+ countries globally. They offer flexible and comprehensive benefits plans with additional options for medical, vision, dental, and pharmacy coverage. 

Some of the basic coverage for their plans includes:

  • Inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment (up to 90 days)
  • Emergency medical evacuation
  • Rehabilitation up to 120 days
  • Emergency dental and optical treatment

Cigna

Cigna provides flexible insurance plans to expats in China and across the globe. They offer their members 24/7 access to a customer care team and access to any private hospitals and private clinics. Their plans are both customizable and comprehensive. 

Cigna has a silver, gold, and platinum plan with different levels of coverage. All three of these plans share several common key coverage benefits: 

  • Hospitalization 
  • Inpatient and daypatient treatments
  • Cancer treatments 
  • Physiotherapy
  • Accidental death or total permanent disability compensation

Bupa Global

Bupa Global is one of the largest medical networks in Hong Kong, as well as the rest of the world. They offer their members tailor-made plans and guaranteed lifetime renewal. They provide high-quality service with a personal relationship manager available for their members. 

Some of the features Bupa’s plans offer include: 

  • Inpatient coverage
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation 
  • 24/7 access to medical advice through the Bupa Global service center
  • Direct access to specialists without referral 

MSH International

MSH has almost 50 years of experience in providing health insurance and offers top-quality care for expats and their families. With features like online claim reimbursement and medical teleconsultations, they are dedicated to their members' support and wellness. 

Their insurance plans come in differing levels from “quartz” to “diamond”, with the most expensive plan offering the highest coverage limits and additional benefits. Here are some of the basic features across their plans: 

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Hospitalization
  • Cancer treatment
  • Emergency evacuation

William Russell

William Russell offers insurance plans that are globally portable across countries, so expats can travel while protected. They also renew their contracts on an annual basis, so their members never feel like they’re locked into long-term contracts.

The basic features of all their plans are: 

  • Hospitalization treatment
  • Cancer treatment and care
  • Emergency evacuations
  • Diagnostics
  • Post-hospital physiotherapy 

GeoBlue 

Geoblue offers international health insurance coverage to expats and their families across the world. They provide both long-term and short-term coverage plans and specialize in plans for students and expats. 

They offer different levels of plans and coverage to best tailor your health insurance to your needs. Some shared features across all levels of plans are: 

  • Diagnostic lab work and X-rays
  • Surgery
  • Inpatient medical emergencies
  • Emergency evacuation and repatriation
  • Yearly physicals 

IMG Global

IMG provides international health insurance plans for expats while abroad. They offer comprehensive insurance policies, with multiple plans and payment options to fit any expat’s budget. They provide superior services to their members like crisis support and preventative care.

Some of the shared features across their varied plans are: 

  • Inpatient treatment
  • Surgery
  • Labs and diagnostics
  • Physical therapy
  • Cancer treatment

NOW Health

NOW Health International offers expats abroad comprehensive health insurance solutions, as well as providing plans for international students. They offer online claim processes through a mobile app and provide other prompt online support.

They have several different tiers of plans, but these are the shared features across all of them: 

  • In-patient and day-patient care
  • Organ transplant
  • Evacuation and repatriation
  • Cancer treatment
  • Rehabilitation

AXA

AXA global health insurance is a great choice for expats in China with its range of differing coverage and customizable additional benefits. They offer short-term and long-term plans, with comprehensive coverage for any medical needs. 

Some examples of shared coverage by all AXA insurance plans include: 

  • Hospital charges and surgery
  • Emergency coverage
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation
  • Cancer treatment
  • Ambulance transport
  • CT, PET, and MRI scans

Allianz

Allianz offers comprehensive insurance plans in China to cater to all expats’ needs. Riders are available to be purchased and attached to any basic policy that Allianz approves. These riders can offer coverage for accidents and other risks.

Some of the basic coverage for their plans includes: 

  • Inpatient costs
  • Diagnostics and laboratory tests
  • Surgeries
  • Ambulances transport
  • Cancer treatment 

April International

April International has over 30 years of experience in the international health insurance market and provides both comprehensive and flexible plans to expats while in China. They provide varying levels of coverage, fully customizable policies, and a wide direct billing network. 

Some of the shared coverage across their plans are: 

  • 24/7 Evacuation, repatriation, and assistance services
  • Hospital and Surgeries
  • Cancer treatments

Additional Benefits and Coverage

Basic international health insurance plans cover inpatient treatment costs and hospitalizations, but most insurance providers also allow additional coverage options to extend your benefits. This could cover things like dental, optical, maternity, and more. 

  • Dental: You can have dental check-ups, cleanings, and major dental procedures covered by customizable, additional benefits when selecting your international health insurance plan.
  • Maternity and family coverage: Expats looking to expand their family can purchase international health insurance plans to cover prenatal care, childbirth, and postpartum care. There are also additional benefits to cover the newborn.
  • Preventive care: Certain health insurance plans will offer regular health checkups and screenings, along with vaccinations and wellness programs. These resources will help expats keep themselves healthy as they begin their new adventure abroad.

Pre-existing Conditions

Expats with pre-existing conditions may have fewer options when buying international insurance, but there are still other solutions available. You can choose a plan with a pre-existing condition exclusion, a moratorium, or coverage with loading.  

Here is a general overview of what each term means: 

  • Exclusion: The insurer will not pay or reimburse the policyholder for medical bills related to the condition if they choose to buy a plan from them.
  • Moratorium: The insurance company offers health insurance but excludes pre-existing condition coverage. The company then observes the pre-existing condition for a certain time known as the waiting period. This period is usually 24 months, and the insurance company reviews its decision.
  • Coverage with loading: Insurance companies may offer coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only with higher premiums. Not all pre-existing conditions are eligible for this kind of coverage, and not all companies offer this option.

Retirees Seeking International Healthcare in China

Expats retiring in China should purchase an international health insurance plan that offers comprehensive and flexible coverage for their medical needs. This may include coverage for cancer screenings, chronic conditions support, and preventative health support. 

Reach out to Pacific Prime to hear all of our international insurance plans for retirees in China. We can help secure a plan that will provide excellent coverage for your needs, as well as provide access to all the best private hospitals and care.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does China offer free healthcare for foreign residents?

China has free healthcare for its citizens and foreign residents, depending on location. Some rural local governments may not provide healthcare for foreign residents.

2. What are the issues with healthcare in China?

Healthcare in China varies in quality, with rural hospitals lacking in adequate staff and resources. While hospitals in big cities can have high-quality care, not every resident in China has access to this care.

Conclusion

Expats in China will benefit from choosing private health insurance as it will ensure they receive quality care while abroad. While expats may enroll in the public healthcare plan, these plans often have severely limited coverage.

For more information on the insurance plans we have on offer, take a look at our health insurance plans page. Whether it's health insurance in Shanghai or health insurance in Beijing, we've got you covered.

Pacific Prime China has more than 20 years of experience in the insurance industry. We are more than happy to help you find plans that balance your budget with your needs. Contact our team of insurance experts today for a free plan comparison and personalized advice!

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