Few of us would say that health insurance shopping is a fun experience, yet we might all agree that it’s a necessary undertaking. Grasping all of the can’t-miss details is a challenge; however, it’s important for Beijing expats to be fully informed before any healthcare needs actually arise.
Expats on a company package typically have the initial homework taken care of. Companies usually have one or two insurers they partner with, and the final decision may be as simple as selecting the plan that is most appropriate for your family. However, expats without comprehensive packages will have to do most of the research themselves. So how do you go about getting insured in Beijing or change from one plan to another?
If you’re already covered, your current insurer is the most logical place to begin exploring other service options. If you’re starting from scratch, ask doctors and clinics within China for recommendations first.
Chris Hughes of Panoramic Insurance Brokerage, Beijing (PIBB) suggests finding a licensed insurance broker in China for advice and support when getting set up. While there are likely thousands of advisers and agents in Beijing, true licensed brokers are rarer: PIBB, Zurich, Continental, and Guan Ai are just a few. These companies are the only insurers allowed to sell China-licensed products to clients actually living in the country. Insurance company Chartis China agrees, noting that while there are many agents in Beijing, the insurer needs to confirm that the agents have been authorized and licensed before serving individual clients.
Brokers are also in the best position to offer advice on securing coverage continuation. Hughes says: “All offshore insurance plans through companies like William Russell, IMG, and Medicare have no China premium tax added, so the plans you buy online with USD and euro are slightly cheaper. However, the support network in China for these plans is significantly [smaller]than those offered by licensed insurance products purchased in RMB.” If the policy is not offered by the broker in RMB, then it is not a product licensed in China. The only legal way to purchase such a product is directly online, and it is best done before you arrive in China.
Considering the constant change of policies and regulations in China, local brokerage consulting might be the safest way to begin your health insurance search. Regardless of what assistance you use, here are some topics to discuss with potential insurers when it comes to your family’s health needs.
Annual Limit and Direct Billing
Consider the overall annual limit you want for coverage. High-quality medical care in China is expensive, so you need to be prepared for emergencies like surgeries and hospital stays, whether you actually use them or not. Limits range from USD 100,000 to several million per year.
Direct billing can simplify the complex healthcare process. Many international hospitals and clinics have large lists of approved direct billing insurance companies, but many local hospitals may not process direct billing even if the treatment is covered. In these cases, be sure to get a official receipt (fapiao) in English for reimbursement; otherwise, you may pay out-of-pocket for even minor treatments. Insurance purchased through licensed brokers in China are all likely to have direct billing processed through international hospitals, as well as local Chinese hospitals.
Outpatient Treatment, Pre-Existing Conditions, and Child Coverage
If you visit the doctor even just a couple of times a year, make sure your policy includes outpatient treatment. You may still pay out of pocket to reach your overall deductible, but not having this coverage will make those visits all the more painful. Often, outpatient care has to be added first before you can consider options such as dental or maternity.
Pre-existing conditions, including pregnancy, can greatly increase your premiums – and that’s if they are even available for purchase. Be sure to check into the options available, should pre-existing
conditions be of concern within your family. If there is a condition that has not been treated for a period of time, insurers may consider an added option at a lesser premium.
Covered medical care for children is often a given within insurance policies, but don’t make any assumptions. Confirm that checkups and basic immunizations are covered. For families with older children who may or may not be living at home as dependents, ask about age caps and the specifics of the “global” part of global insurance coverage.
Medical Evacuation and Travel Insurance
While living overseas, medical evacuation is an essential consideration. Does the insurer know that you are looking at covering these services? Before brushing that extra option aside, consider the cost of getting home on your own in case of health emergency. Medevac would cover an evacuation for essential surgery, medical treatments unavailable here, or a regional or national health epidemic.
International travel, whether for business or pleasure, goes hand-in-hand with living in Beijing. Travel insurance is important as a backup on your rider. This is often available as a small package when you have visitors, either through your insurance plan or through an international hospital or clinic membership.
- Are you interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or other natural remedies?
- Do you have children with special needs?
- Are you considering adoption while abroad?
- Can the insurer offer proficient English service?
- Is there a waiting period for the policy?
- Are there any exclusions or restrictions regarding the hospitals or clinics used?
- What deductible and co-payment options are there?
- What about continuous coverage?
- Is locally purchased insurance global?
- Are second opinions covered?
- What is the protocol in an emergency?
In addition to health insurance, international hospitals (like Beijing United Family Hospitals and Clinics) or primary care clinics (such as Beijing International SOS Clinic) have memberships that offer patients additional discounts and extra services for an annual fee. Sometimes these memberships serve as a supplement for those company packages that may not cover as many expenses. These also work well for people who select their packages based on low upfront fees, or for those who pay out-of-pocket. Additionally, hospitals like OASIS Healthcare offer occasional promotions and health services packages, so be sure to check into what’s available wherever you look.
One way to stretch your insurance coverage further is to visit a Chinese hospital, many of which are covered by global insurance plans. Peking Union Medical College Hospital, Beijing Friendship Hospital, and Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital are Chinese-run hospitals with VIP wings and English-speaking doctors. While you may wait longer to see a doctor and facilities are less private, the medical care is still top-quality at a less expensive rate.
When living at home, people often own their own houses and have various forms of insurance to protect them and everything in them. Personal articles floaters covers personal property, while specific protection against theft or disaster may also be available for purchase. But what do we do here, when most of us are renting homes for anywhere from one year to ten?
The first recommendation is to contact the existing insurance
provider in your home country, be it for car, health, property, or
otherwise. They may be able to assist you personally with additional riders (for temporary overseas living) or advise you on where to go.
Finding such personal possession insurance while in China is not as common, however, so you may find that some insurance companies no longer even offer it. But of those that do, you can purchase peace of mind for your valuables in case of loss. Chartis offers four kinds of personal property insurance: Home Guard (valuables at home), ATM Assault Guard, E-Guard (personal electronics) and Wallet Guard. Determine the worth and replacement costs of your valuables, then tailor a plan to your specific insurance needs.
Below are some options and resources available in Beijing. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what is best for you and your family. Weigh the pros and the cons of available options, talk to people who have gone through the process themselves, and get professional guidance before making a final choice.
Contact: Matthew Woloszuk, 21 6445 4592 ext 104,
Locally-licensed insurance provider AXA-Minmetals offers policy benefit limits ranging from USD 850,000 to 3,400,000 per person annually, depending on the options, co-pay and deductibles selected, number of family members, and age. Coverage benefits include outpatient care, dental, alternative therapies, and emergency evacuation. Maternity is covered under a supplemental policy. For large families, the company allows the inclusion of the second, third and fourth child under the policy for free. This is an attractive benefit for families willing to overlook the high costs of the plan’s maternity coverage.
Contact: 6462 9112, www.clinicsinchina.com
International SOS membership allows 24/7 access to International SOS’ worldwide infrastructure and resources, including its clinics, logistics coordinators, doctors, security professionals and network providers like hospitals, physicians, ambulances, aviation and evacuation resources. There are also a variety of different corporate membership options.
Individual membership provides expert advice and medical assistance for international travel or immediate care while abroad, such as emergency and routine medical advice, clinic/doctor referrals, in-patient and out-patient care, guarantee of payment, medical monitoring, medical evacuation and repatriation. Annual fees vary depending on the coverage chosen. In addition, this membership offers discounted rates for clinic services at Beijing International SOS Clinic.
International SOS members are eligible to purchase a Clinic Plan for unlimited access to routine clinic services and medications, during normal clinic hours, for a single fee. Covered services include unlimited GP consultations, as well as laboratory testing and some emergency services.
Beijing United Family Hospitals and Clinics (BJU)
Contact: 5927 7360 for membership information, 5927 7120 for BJU emergency hotline, www.ufh.com.cn
Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics offer three types of membership: individual, corporate and lifetime. All memberships offer discounts on health services at all United Family Healthcare (UFH) facilities as well as UFH-sponsored events. Individual members have receive one free health checkup per year. Corporate membership is free for organizations or businesses with 10 employees or more. Lifetime members can extend their UFH membership to family members. Direct billing services are also available with around 30 international insurance companies.
UFH members in Beijing have access to BJU’s 24-hour emergency Room and comprehensive international-standard healthcare services offered by the hospital and its partner facilities.
Chartis Insurance Company China
Contact: 5969 2966, email@example.com,
Chartis has launched a revamped product for expatriates called Global Health Advantage. This high-end medical insurance offers annual premiums per person ranging from USD 500 to several thousand USD, based on coverage scope, deductible, options and age of the insured person.
For example, if an expatriate family of four (two adults, 35 years old; two kids, 10 years old) chooses the middling plan of Global Health Advantage plans, the cost will be USD 9,000 for the annual premium for the family. This provides worldwide coverage (excluding Cuba, Burma, Iran and Sudan) with maximum benefit as high as USD 3,000,000 per person per year without deductible, including hospitalization, out-patient surgery, private nursing, organ transplant and emergency benefits. Comprehensive plans can provide direct billing in foreign hospitals and clinics.
Expat Solutions Consulting Limited
Contact: Paige Mushinsky, 130 0123 6963, firstname.lastname@example.org, expat.solutions (Skype)
Expat Solutions provides two options for consideration:
1) A cost-saving budget option for worldwide coverage (excluding North America) which includes cover mainly for hospitalization treatment, as well as for outpatient treatment for cancer treatment, with a USD 1 million maximum per year, with a USD 0 co-pay for those covered charges. Any non-hospital treatment would not be covered by this plan, thus the lower premium compared to Plan 2. Direct payment is normally arranged at the hospital of the policyholder’s choice, within the geographic area of cover. The premiums for a family of four, if parents are age 25-29: USD 345.67 per month, USD 3,951.27 per annum; if parents are age 30-34: USD 4,703/yr: USD 386 per month, or USD 4,411.81 per year.
2) A popular “bells and whistles” option for worldwide coverage
(excluding North America) offers a USD 0 deductible and a USD 3 million lifetime cap. Coverage includes 100 percent hospitalization, outpatient, prescriptions, and annual check-ups with 10 percent co-pay and no deductible up to USD 750. Vision benefits are covered up to USD 300 every 24 months, including exams, lenses, and contacts. Routine dental is included and covered up to USD 1,500. Annual child preventative care prices: Birth-12 months: USD 350; 13 months-1 year: USD 200; until age 18: USD 200. Direct billing at most international and Chinese facilities in major cities. Cost for a family of four, if parents aged 25-29: USD 7,147; if parents aged 30-34: USD 7,869. To include North America, the premium would be as follows: Family of four, if parents aged 25-29: USD 11,116; if parents aged 30-34: USD 12,239.
Contact: 400 UR OASIS (400 87 62747), www.oasishealth.cn
Located just north of 798 Art District, this full-service private hospital with an international medical team. Currently the only international hospital with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) department, OASIS offers patients top-quality western medicine and TCM with English speaking doctors. Additionally, OASIS offers one of the most advanced MRI and CT scans.
A membership program will roll our later in the year; however, there are many healthcare packages in areas such as TCM, OB/GYN,
standard health checkups and more. Direct billing is available for most insurance providers.
Pacific Prime Insurance Brokers
Contact: 21 6445 4592 (China office), 852 3588 2926 (Michael Lamb), email@example.com, www.pacificprime.com
BUPA/AIC (part of the BUPA group, the world’s largest provider of IPMI policies) provides a Worldwide Health Options package that offers up to USD 2,550,000 in benefits per policy year, including coverage for in-patient, out-patient, maternity, newborn care, cancer treatments, psychology, transplant services and TCM (including acupuncture and homeopathy). There are also options for dental and emergency evacuation. Policy premiums are calculated based on the number and ages of family members and optional coverage benefits chosen, with a range of deductible options. Per-person annual premiums range from USD 1,000 to 10,000. Policy holders can receive treatment at facilities like Beijing United Family Hospital or seek treatment overseas.
Beijing Friendship Hospital
Mon-Fri 7am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 7am-11am, 24hr emergency. 95 Yong’an Lu, Xuanwu District (6301 4411 ext 3482)
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm, 24hr emergency. Suite 105, Tower 1, Kunsha Building, 16 Xinyuanli, Chaoyang District (6462 9112) www.clinicsinchina.com 朝阳区新源里16号琨莎大厦1座105室
Beijing United Family Hospitals and Clinics
Mon-Sat 8.30am-5.30pm, 24hr emergency. 2 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (5927 7000) www.unitedfamilyhospitals.com 朝阳区将台路2号
Chartis Insurance Company China
9A15-16, Hanwei Plaza, Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (5969 2888) www.chartisinsurance.com.cn 朝阳区光华路华威大厦9A15-16
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Sun 8.30-12.30am, daily 24hr emergency. 9 Jiuxianqiao Beilu, Chaoyang District (400 876 2747) (5985 0227)www.oasishealth.cn 朝阳区酒仙桥北路9号
Panoramic Insurance Brokerage (Beijing)
Daily 9am-6pm. O-324, 3/F, Lido Place, 6 Jiangtai Lu, Chaoyang District (6437 3510, 3226 0702 inquiries and technical support, 138 1669 7428) www.pibb.com.cn 朝阳区将台路6号丽都饭店3层0－324室
Peking Union Medical College Hospital
Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. 1 Shuaifuyuan, Wangfujing (the international wing is located behind and to the left of the main entrance), Dongcheng District (6529 5284/69, 24hr) www.pumch.ac.cn
Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital
Mon-Fri 8am-noon, 1.30-5pm, Sat 8-11.30am. 24hr emergency care. Yinghua Dongjie, Heping Jie Beikou, Hepingli, Chaoyang District (6422 2952 international department, 8420 5122) 朝阳区和平里和平街北口樱花东街