Reply To: China expat health insurance ideas ?

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With regards to medical insurance for expatriates there are a number of points that you need to take into consideration:

Apart from the expensive costs of international facilities here in Shanghai it should cover you on your other travels for business or pleasure around the world – and therefore cover should be of a premium.

If you and your family are fit and healthy go for something that has very good inpatient cover and also for special investigations and lab tests, surgery, ICU etc.

For outpatients most expats are fairly healthy and we do not use outpatient services more than two or three times a year (we self medicate more than they do in China). So you can choose an insurance that has very limited outpatient cover and pay out of pocket for these but ensure you have really really good cover for longterm inpatient care in case of surgery or catastrophic event that will keep you there for a long time. Check on cover for chronic medications – drugs can be a major expense.

Some insurances are very smart, they want to restrict payouts but want your premiums, obviously that is how they make money, so they may give you a ridiculous cover for outpatient care and a limited amount for inpatient care as they know that is where the claims are going to be high, so go over the cover very closely.

They will insure you for a couple of million USD for cancer etc, and really the risk for most healthy people is low for that and we would most likely relocate home for that anyway.

Common things happen commonly – so for us if we are fit and healthy it is likely to be accidental in nature, the odd heart attack, stroke, diabetes if you are NOT THAT healthy and exercise etc.

Finally check to see that there is medical evacuation cover as you may want to go somewhere where you are getting a better level of care and this can be very expensive, ensure that the medical assistance company responsible for evacuation/repatriation (to home country for major illness like cancer) and linked to your insurance is one that has a good reputation here in Asia as well – they don’t all match up.

If you want a good expat package you are going to pay for it, so do a risk benefit analysis and go for the things that are likely to happen and take the risk – sh…t happens but the percentage is likely to be low.

I would recommend you look at ones like BUPA and CIGNA these are the ones used by the largest MNC’s. If you want to go for something that is not in this price category Royal Sun Alliance and there are also others, like GMCI/Aetna/Goodhealth/William Russell/Allianz/AIG etc. But be very careful of some of the fine print of all these insurances as some will not readily pay up when it comes to saving costs at the risk of potentially not doing the best for the patient – like “the healthcare in China is the same as other places in the world, so why would you want to go elsewhere” and b/s like that.

Make sure you ask your broker all the questions – so be knowledgeable and question everything, remember they also make money out of it so they may try to sell you something that is not suitable for you and I have advised many people not to take the packages they have been offered based on all the facts above.

It really is going to depend on your personal needs, family, current health status travel etc. and whether you will be covered under your home country healthcare system should something major go wrong.

Don’t get roped into something not suitable for the most important needs you will require – there should be no compromise to your health and you should expect only the best so pay for it and sleep well at night!