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Deciphering the difference between maternity packages and maternity coverage

Pacific Prime China looks at the differences between maternity insurance and birth packages and why insurance is often the better option.

Posted on Sep 11, 2015 by Rob McBroom

A common trend among the health industry in China, namely private hospitals, is the offering of health packages in order to entice people to patronize their facility. These packages are usually heavily advertised and pushed to patients as something that can help make their stay easier or even cheaper.

The thing is, this can spark some confusion especially when it comes to birth and how, or if maternity insurance is any different. To help clarify things, let's take a look at these packages and some reasons why they may not be as good as they first seem.

What exactly are maternity packages?

Many private hospitals in China offer packages to expectant mothers that are designed to be some-what all inclusive when it comes time for delivery. For example these packages will usually include a room for 2-3 days after the birth, some doctor's fees, equipment, medicine, and even some of the most important tests conducted after birth to ensure the health of your baby. Some even go so far as to offer post-natal doctor visits for you and the baby.

To many, these seem like a great idea as they do group all of the costs associated with birth together into one lump-sum which can make the cost of giving birth an easier pill to swallow. The thing is, these packages are marketed in a way that can be quite confusing, especially if you are also considering, or already have, maternity insurance.

How do these packages differ from maternity insurance?

Maternity insurance is a benefit you can add to, or that comes with, an existing health insurance plan. The idea behind this type of insurance is that it has been designed to offset the cost of birth, while packages simply combine the costs of birth.  

When considering your options you will quickly come to find that at first glance both the maternity package and maternity insurance have their merits. The thing is, Pacific Prime China strongly recommends pursuing a health insurance plan that offers maternity coverage. To help highlight why this is the case, we have created a mini-case study based on a healthy 34 year old female client who is based in Shanghai and is looking to have a baby in the near future and is considering her options:  

Option 1: A delivery package from ParkwayHealth

From the Parkway's website, you can see that a delivery package - in this case Delivery Package A, which covers pretty much everything an expecting mother can expect to have when she goes to deliver her baby will cost around RMB 60,000.

Option 2: An insurance plan with maternity coverage included

By using Pacific Prime's online quote generator, our mother-to-be has been able to find an international health insurance plan that offers maternity coverage from MSH International for RMB 2,598 a month - RMB 30,132 per year. In this case, the annual claim limit for maternity is RMB 68,000.

 

MO_SS_Maternity Sep 09.JPG

 

The catch with this option is that MSH International has a 12 month waiting period before you can submit a maternity claim, so our mother-to-be will need to spend RMB 60,264 in premiums before she can submit a claim. This would make the birth package seem the better deal.

Which option is better?

That being said, like almost every other important decision you make, you should not make it based on the price alone. It is because of this reason that Pacific Prime strongly believes that maternity insurance is the better choice. There are five reasons to support this.   

1. Maternity packages don't generally cover emergency procedures

While we all hope that our baby is born healthy and happy, the reality is that many babies will need extra care, especially if they are pre-mature. For example, if your baby needs to be sent to the NICU, the package will not usually cover this so all fees related to care in this unit or emergency care will be charged directly to you.

With an insurance plan, your newborn is usually covered immediately, so should any emergency procedures or extra care be needed, they will usually be covered which means you will not have to pay out of pocket.

2. Packages usually don't cover any requirements for newborns

What we mean by this is the extra medical procedures that are necessary to ensure the health of your newborn child. This includes things like vaccinations, or even follow-up visits after the first, or whatever is offered in the package. What this means is that if you get the package, you will also be required to pay for these extra, yet necessary, procedures.  

Many insurance plans on the other hand will extend coverage to your newborn for a set amount of time under your plan, or may even cover dependents. If this is the case, then these appointments, follow-ups, and even shots will be covered.   

3. You will need to purchase the package before doctors agree to treat you

Any one who has been to the hospital in China will usually tell you that the hospital will demand payment for treatment before they actually start treatment. If you have insurance, most insurers in China offer direct billing which means the hospital can bill your provider directly allowing you to start treatment earlier.

If you have not decided to purchase a package ahead of time, you will need to arrange payment for it before the staff begin treatment. In an emergency, or near emergency situation, this could make a major difference in how smoothly the baby is delivered.

4. Maternity packages work on a schedule, many births don't

This is probably the biggest issue expectant mothers run across when booking delivery packages through the hospitals - it is extremely hard to predict when your baby will come. Most of these packages allow you to pick a time-frame, but if your baby is early or late, there may be extra charges levied. Because many insurance plans use direct billing, when your baby comes, you will be covered, no having to guess.

Beyond that, if you sign up for say a normal delivery package, but need an emergency c-section, you will most likely be billed for the procedure which would usually be covered by your insurance. This is a risk many mothers would rather not have to face when giving birth.

5. What's included can often be limited

When looking at delivery packages it can be a bit overwhelming, especially since the list of what is offered is usually lengthy. The problem is, when you start to look closer the amount of what is included may not be enough. Take for example the package from the Parkway (link above). This package includes Ringer's solution (a common IV drip for dehydration) and pain killers, while these can be useful, the amount included is extremely limited. Many mothers who need IV drip will likely need more than 500 ml, so any extra medication used will be charged.

What about if you need blood, or there is a complication with the birth? These are usually not included as well.

Combine these together and it is easy to see that the RMB 60,000 cost of the package can quickly balloon to triple that or more, especially if there is a complication. Compare this with the health insurance, which will most likely cover these costs, and it becomes clear that it is the better option.

The key draw here is that maternity insurance is the better overall solution simply because it offers coverage for everything at the same cost of the birthing package, which is limited to just the birth. If you are considering having a baby in the near future, contact Pacific Prime China. Our staff can help you find a plan that meets your coverage needs.  

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