Locals and expatriates alike are concerned with the substandard options for medical treatment in China. Most of the care that is available at a reasonable cost is provided in clinics with cleanliness and training standards that most foreigners would find disconcerting. As a result, China—mainly Shanghai—has become a new market for international medical insurance companies. Many international residents as well as the expanding wealthy Chinese population have begun to opt for plans that can promise more and until recently, this has only been available from offshore providers.
Some regional plans for Chinese nationals are available for under US$4, but plans that cover the quality of health care expected in the West would be quite a bit higher. The changing lifestyle in China has created an increase in the frequency of diseases like cancer and emphysema, the treatment of which can be very pricey. China's middle-class families are concerned about the potential price of long-term care and prefer the security of a international plan that includes cover for these kinds of medical costs.
Health Insurance Cover in Shanghai
For foreigners living in Shanghai, the prospect of receiving care at a local hospital can be daunting. While there are hospitals designed for international clientele, the services available can cost much more than equivalent care would cost in your county of origin. This is why it is so important to have high-quality medical insurance while you are in Shanghai; you can feel safe about the health care available while not having to worry about the cost of treatment.
Another cause of sky-high healthcare costs is the shift in China's healthcare system, which has been gradually losing government subsidies since the early 1980s. Even small health issues are too costly for most Chinese citizens to treat. One patient in Hangzhou, a mid-size city (more than 6 million people) near Shanghai, had to make a hard choice at a public hospital. To treat an infection on his leg, the construction worker had to choose between a one day treatment (at the price of nearly US$120—more than 10% of his income for an entire year) or have his leg amputated (which would make him unable to work). This leaves people like this worker (the vast majority of China's population) avoiding medical care because they simply cannot afford it.
Whether you are living or traveling in Shanghai, be sure to take measures to prevent a similar situation from happening to you. If you encounter some bad luck, having the right kind of insurance will mean that you can receive top-quality care without the burden of astonomical costs.
In 2003, patients across China paid more than 56% of their own medical costs. This number is starkly higher than the 1980 figure, a mere 21%. In addition, the price of medical care has risen 67% in the last three decades, contrasted to disposable income, which has gone up only 45%.
All these figures attract more and more insurancers to China, who see the growing demand as an opportunity. American International Group, AIG, is one of these companies. AIG is currently expanding its marketing and sales force in China to increase a customer base that had already exceeded 1.5 million in 2006. Economists predict that China's private health insurance market may grow to $56 billion by 2020..