Tips for reducing health risks from air pollution in China

Blog on reducing air pollution health risks

As you are probably aware, the harmful effects of air pollution in major Chinese cities has been a cause of ongoing concern for the population’s health and wellbeing. One of the main reasons for such high pollution levels is the observably poor compliance to environmental standards at industrial plants, and with China producing the highest total industrial output globally, harmful levels of PM2.5 pollutant matter (particles small enough to penetrate the lungs) are continuously emitted into the atmosphere, day in and day out.

World news headlines and social media sites continue to see the ubiquitous presence of China’s health pollution problem, and rightly so, as it tops the world in most types of air pollution due to the high presence of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon emissions. By 2017, Beijing aims to reduce its annual levels of PM2.5 from its 2013 level of 89.5 micrograms per cubic meter to 60 micrograms per cubic meter – an ambitious aim that still seems nearly impossible considering the city’s current reduction rate, with a recorded level of 80.6 micrograms reported at the end of 2015.

Especially when considering the increased mortality and premature deaths linked to air pollutant exposure, there’s a pressing need for the Chinese government to implement pollution reduction measures, especially in its major cities. From a personal perspective, there are also a number of things you can do to reduce the health risks associated with air pollution, a key few of which are addressed in this article.

What are the health risks associated with air pollution?

A staggering 1.6 million deaths in China per year have been attributed to toxic air pollution, as air pollutants have been reportedly linked to a number of health risks. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to air pollution health risks than others, such as pregnant women, the elderly, young children, people with heart disease, and people with lung conditions.

According to Spare The Air, some of the health risks associated with exposure to heavy air pollution include:

  • Cardiovascular disease, e.g. stroke
  • Respiratory conditions, e.g. asthma
  • Loss of lung capacity
  • Reduced resistance to infections
  • There’s also an increased risk of lung cancer from prolonged exposure to air pollution

While there are groups of people that are particularly vulnerable to these health risks, even the healthiest of individuals may develop some of the symptoms common from pollution exposure, such as wheezing and dry throat. This is why it is important for anyone living in major cities within China to mitigate the health risks caused by air pollution.

Top tips for mitigating health risks from air pollution

The health risks mentioned above may seem scary, but there are a few things you can do to minimize them.

Stay indoors

One method of significantly reducing exposure to air pollutants is to stay indoors, especially during high air pollution days. To check air pollution levels in your area, be sure to follow government warnings and local news. It may also help to look at real-time China pollution maps (like this one).

Although air pollution particles do infiltrate indoors, its concentrations are typically much lower indoors than outdoors. To lower the infiltration of air pollution, an article in the Journal of Thoracic Disease suggests closing windows, as this action alone can effectively reduce air exchange rates by approximately 50%.

Consider buying an indoor air purifier

You may also want to buy an air cleaning device (e.g. a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter) for your home, as this can help reduce the concentrations of air pollution and the levels of PM2.5 indoors. The rate at which pollutants are removed will depend on a range of factors such as the size of your home and the ventilation rate of your air purifier.

Try to stay away from heavily trafficked roads

If you’re going out for a jog or cycling around the city, it’s highly advised to stay away from heavily trafficked roads to avoid traffic-related air pollutants. These include particles from combustion engines, tire and vehicle wear, and road dust. If you have been walking near any major roadways, it’s a good idea to wash your clothes and take a shower after you get home to rid yourself of harmful fine particles.

Wear a protective mask

Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid being out during polluted days, especially when you have to commute to work. It might not look very fashionable, but wearing a protective mask or even a personal respirator can significantly help lower your exposure to air pollutants on urban streets, and can be especially beneficial for people who are more susceptible to health risks caused by air pollution.

Final advice

As revealed in this article, air pollution in China can really have a negative impact on your health, so it’s important to secure a private health insurance plan so that you are protected in the event that you require quality medical treatment from private or international hospitals. If you’ve got any questions on health plans, contact our team of experienced advisors today.

A newcomer’s guide to health insurance in China

Newcomer's guide to health insurance in China blog

Welcome to China! As part of your settling-in process, you will no doubt have many arrangements to consider once you’ve moved here, healthcare being a factor that will likely take central precedence.

After the Chinese government started allowing investment in private hospitals from foreign entities in 2012, the quality of medical care in China continues to flourish. Government spending within the healthcare sector is expected to reach US $1 trillion by 2020, which is a stark contrast from the 2011 figure of US $357 billion.

While it is not a legal requirement to purchase health insurance in China, most expats will find the need for a private health insurance plan so that they can enjoy coverage for the high cost of superior medical care charged in private facilities. Navigating through the diverse range of available health insurance options can be daunting for anyone, but Pacific Prime China is here to help with this handy newcomer’s guide.

Background on healthcare in China

It’s highly advised that any expat looking for health insurance in China are aware of the healthcare landscape in this country.

Common health problems in China

It might be scary to think about, but all expats in China should be aware of the common health problems faced by people living in this country. For example, air pollution is a big issue in major cities, with an average of 90 out of every 100,000 projected premature deaths in the 31 provincial capitals caused by diseases specific to air pollution, such as lung cancer and ischemic heart disease. Due to urbanization, and changes in diet and lifestyle, a number of other non-communicable diseases (e.g. diabetes) are also on the rise. With this in mind, it’s also important to know about medical treatment costs in China.

Medical treatment can be costly

Expats will tend to visit private or international hospitals to benefit from modern care that is comparable to the West, but this comes with a steep price tag. A trip to the GP at one of these facilities can easily set you back by RM ¥1,200 to ¥1,500, with prices charged for specialist appointments being significantly more expensive.

Expect to pay around ¥50,000 for an emergency surgical procedure and up to an astounding ¥98,000 for a C-section maternity package. Sometimes, the requirement for medical treatment can’t be planned (especially in the case of emergencies) so having that additional ‘safety net’ by securing a private health insurance policy may save you from breaking the bank.

Coverage levels available in China

All insurance plans will provide varying levels of coverage, below are the main types of coverage:

  • Inpatient only: With an inpatient only benefit, you will be covered for overnight treatment at a hospital, but will not be covered for outpatient treatment such as day trips to the GP. Inpatient care is typically the most expensive, so being secured with this type of benefit can really save you a lot of money. The premiums charged for inpatient only plans are usually the cheapest, as it comes with the least amount of coverage.
  • Inpatient + outpatient: This type of plan includes coverage for both inpatient and outpatient care, so you’ll also be covered for medical care that does not require overnight stays at a hospital. Policyholders with this type of coverage will often also be covered for preventative care check-ups, tests, and vaccinations. Please note that premiums charged for this type of plan will typically be higher than an inpatient only plan.
  • Full coverage: If you’re looking for additional benefits on top of your inpatient and outpatient plan, then it’s a good idea to look out for full coverage plans offering add-ons such as maternity, vision, and dental cover. Insurance providers often refer to these additional benefits as “riders”. These benefits will usually come with a waiting period, also commonly referred to as a moratorium period, meaning that there will be a set period of time before the policyholder can make any claims on the benefit.

Local or international health insurance?

When shopping around for health insurance in China, you’ll also have to think about whether you want to purchase a local or international plan. Here’s what you need to know about each type of plan:

Local health insurance

As the name suggests, this type of insurance will cover you locally (in China). Some plans may even only provide coverage in one particular province or state.  This means that if you’re travelling overseas and want to be covered for treatment, you will need to buy a travel policy. Please note that for travel policies, coverage limits are usually very low, and they typically cover emergency treatments and repatriation costs only. Premiums for this type of policy are lower than international plans simply because the region of coverage is much lower.

International health insurance

If you’re looking for worldwide coverage, this type of plan is ideal for you. International plans are designed specifically for globally mobile expats, as it provides a great deal of flexibility in where you can be treated. For example, if you were to seek treatment in a country that may not be as medically advanced, an international plan will cover your medical fees if you decided to seek treatment in a country with more advanced healthcare instead. Please note that the majority of international health plans will not comply with the US Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations, so if you’re a US taxpayer, you may want to consider an ACA compliant international plan.

Talk to a licensed insurance advisor

A respected insurance advisor like Pacific Prime China will offer a wealth of expertise as well as unbiased advice that will be very valuable in helping you find the best value deal available. Reputed insurance brokers have close relationships with leading insurance providers, meaning that they will be able to provide competitive rates that can sometimes be cheaper than going directly to an insurance company. There’s also the added bonus of benefiting from additional services often provided by brokers, such as dedicated customer services support and renewals teams.

If you’re looking for advice on health insurance in China, feel free to contact us or use our online tool to compare quotes today.

Pacific Prime China’s Beijing office opens with a party

Pacific Prime Beijing Office Invitation

Pacific Prime China has kicked off the opening of its Beijing office with a bit of a party, inviting many of our clients to join the celebrations. A first for Pacific Prime, the event was attended by around 50 clients who enjoyed the drinks, finger food, and music provided by the Beijing staff.

North China Regional Manager, Stevie Erard, says the opening was a real success and a great occasion for clients to mingle, network, and interact with the Pacific Prime Beijing team in a relaxed atmosphere.

Pacific Prime Beijing Staff

“The impact has been very positive!” says Stevie, who also noted that the chance to improve relations with clients was also met with some great feedback from those attending. One client contacted the Beijing office to praise them and the fantastic event they held:

Thank you very much for inviting me yesterday. It was really an excellent party! You have good colleagues, nice customers and a very friendly atmosphere.

The Pacific Prime Beijing staff can give themselves a big pat on the back as the same client expressed gratitude at the chance to reconnect with some old friends, and said they were looking forward to expanding business opportunities with the office in future.

Check out this selection of pics from the event – including some very excited lucky draw participants!

A big congratulations to Stevie and the Pacific Prime Beijing office for a successful opening – you rock!

Pacific Prime China

With the opening of the new Beijing office, Pacific Prime China has strengthened its ability to provide quality health insurance solutions to expats and locals in China and around the Asia-Pacific region. Their experienced staff are committed to bringing clients both the best policies for their budget and coverage needs. If you’re looking for health insurance in China, contact Pacific Prime China for a free quote today!

Insurtech: The next big buzzword in insurance?

Image to showcase insurtech in China

You’ve probably heard of the word “insurtech” at some point, but what does it mean? This portmanteau of “insurance” and “technology” is a recent buzzword that describes how insurers are revolutionizing the insurance industry with disruptive technology to improve and grow their offerings. Since technology took central precedence in the Chinese government’s 2013 reforms, the insurtech sector continues to flourish, with sales that could reach over US $60 billion by 2018. This article highlights some of the major trends in insurtech and what this could mean for the future of insurance in China.

Are insurers utilizing technology?

There is little doubt that insurtech is nothing short of disruptive, but before we look into some popular examples of how the industry is leveraging technology it would first be a good idea to look into what exactly health insurers are doing and their view on technology.

Historically, health insurers have been a little slow to uptake technology but this is starting to change as we found in our Top International Private Medical Insurance Trends report released in early 2016. As we found in our report, health insurers are increasingly implementing three technological elements:

  • Portals
  • Mobile apps
  • Claims and plan data

It is clear that insurtech is certainly having an impact on the health insurance providers we work with, but there is still a long way to go in terms of catching up with other industries. Below are some interesting new insurtech elements that the industry is starting to look into leveraging.

Integrating wearable technology and health insurance

Wearable technology is huge in China, with over 9.5 million wearables sold between April and June 2016 alone. These Internet connected devices not only help you track your fitness and sleep patterns, etc., but they also gather large amounts of real-time data. This presents many new opportunities for insurers to adapt and create new offerings so that they are more personalized and flexible. Some insurance companies have even begun to offer discounts and other benefits to encourage people to share their wearable data.

Complementing underwriting data with wearables

Despite its growing popularity, the widespread adoption and integration of wearable devices by the insurance sector is still in its early days. However, essential data collected from these devices is increasingly being used to complement underwriting data.

For example, with a fitness tracker you can more easily identify what kind of lifestyle improvements you will likely need to make in order to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. If you’re committed to these lifestyle improvements, for example if you show that you have a good track record of exercising as well as having adequate sleep, this information could eventually be used to negotiate lower premiums, especially after a few years of solid results.

Tackling new risks with cyber insurance

According to China Daily Asia, China sees an astounding US $60 billion in cyber losses annually, with more than 8 million servers hijacked within the past 2 years. Cybercrime continues to dominate headlines in the country as hackers become increasingly sophisticated.

As such, a new type of insurance, named cyber insurance, has emerged to tackle these cyber risks. Cyber insurance protects policyholders from liabilities incurred as a result of private data being lost or leaked to the public, and also protects them from cyber attacks and hacks by arranging the funding needed to cover cybercrime losses.

The future of consumer cyber protection

Although this type of insurance tends to be more popular for organizations looking to protect their data, we predict that more homeowner’s insurance policies will include this type of coverage for consumer cyber protection. By offering security audits, insurers will be able to check whether or not sensitive data (e.g. banking details) stored in your computer and in your mobile devices are truly secure and hack-proof.

Other emerging forms of insurance

As the insurance sector continues to be influenced by technological innovation, new forms of insurance offering more personalized services are beginning to emerge. Chinese tech giants like Alibaba, WeChat, and Tencent have been quick to notice this trend as they continue to compete for market share in emerging forms of online insurance platforms.

With technology, insurance companies are also able to pinpoint opportunities to develop new types of insurance, some even capitalizing on protecting policyholders against social risks such as divorce. As providers begin to find new, more sophisticated ways of analyzing and gathering consumer data, we predict that services offered by providers will continue to be more flexible and tailored to the individual.

To learn more about your insurance options, visit Pacific Prime China today.

Govt clamps down on foreign insurance in China

Map of China to denote foreign health insurance regulations

Over the past two or so years, there has been a constant financial trend in China that has piqued the interest of investors, companies, and governments alike: The continued capital outflows out of the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of September 2016, capital outflow from China has been recorded in each of the previous 24 months. The article goes on to note that the outflow for the year is pegged to be just over USD 400 billion. While this is certainly high, the Chinese government has been taking steps to reduce it. These steps are varied both in scope and success with the latest being a tightening of regulations around foreign insurance products in China. In this article, we take a look at the two latest regulations and what it means to all people considering insurance in China.

 

The first regulation: Using UnionPay cards to pay for insurance outside of China

First off, it is important to note here that clampdowns by the Chinese government on insurance products are not a new thing, especially when it comes to actions that are aimed at stemming the constant capital outflow. In fact, this is the second such action taken in less than a year. Back in March of this year, we wrote an article on the regulations introduced around the purchase of insurance products outside of China using Chinese bank cards, more specifically UnionPay cards.

With this regulation, holders of UnionPay cards issued in China had a limit of USD 5,000 per transaction on insurance products. Recently, the Chinese government decided to take this regulation another step further.

In late October, UnionPay (which is the national credit and debit card issuer in China) announced that they were going to start halting the purchase of almost all insurance products in Hong Kong for people who use UnionPay cards issued in China.

What this means is that if you have a UnionPay bank card, including both debit and credit cards, that was issued by a bank in China, you will not be able to buy most insurance products outside of the mainland using that card.

The small bit of good news around this recent announcement is that there are some exceptions to this rule: You can still buy insurance plans that are related to tourism, such as travel insurance.

The second regulation: Cracking down on the sale of foreign insurance products in China

The second regulation introduced at the end of October is directly related to the sale and purchase of foreign insurance products, only this regulation focuses on foreign products available in China.

According to the Asia Insurance Review, “Officials of the Chinese insurance regulator CIRC have recently visited foreign life insurance firms and intermediaries in Beijing as part of investigations into the illegal sale of insurance products in Hong Kong to mainland Chinese.”

What appears to be happening is that some unscrupulous insurers are selling insurance products from locations outside of mainland China, mainly Hong Kong, to citizens in the country.

The CIRC is cracking down on these insurers primarily because some, not all, are selling using methods that some perceive to be misleading and are in fact selling what the government views to be illegal products.

What does this mean for people looking for insurance?

The problem that you need to be aware of here is that it is illegal for companies in China to sell insurance plans from foreign institutions that don’t have a license to operate in the mainland. This means that if you purchase one of these plans and have problems with say submitting a claim, you will have no legal means of recourse which pretty much equates to not having effective coverage.

The biggest thing to point out here is that if you are looking for insurance in China, it is advised that you buy a plan from a licensed insurer within China. That said, if you are looking to purchase plans in another country, e.g., you have purchased property in Hong Kong and need to secure fire insurance, it would be far better to purchase coverage from an insurer in that country, not from an insurer/company in the mainland offering coverage in that location.

 

What about those holding international health insurance plans?

If you already have a plan in place when you move to China there should be no problems regarding the legality of coverage as it was secured before you move to the country. But if you are already in China and are looking for a plan, it would be advisable to select plans offered by insurers with a license to operate within the country.

The reason for this not only has to do with legality of coverage – almost all major international insurers offer legal plans in China – but due to the fact that onshore plans (those sold within China) offer a number of additional benefits including:

  • The ability to pay in RMB
  • CIRC protection in litigation cases
  • Plans are serviced locally – This is very important for major issue like case management, etc. as insurers on the ground will have a greater understanding of local regulations and the healthcare system
  • Fapiao invoices are available
  • Larger direct billing network, including with some public hospitals

In our experience, if you are going to be living in China then it is generally a better option to secure an international health insurance plan from a China-based insurer, especially if you plan on seeking medical care within the country.

 

How can you identify health insurance plans that are legal in China?

The easiest way to do so is to work with a licensed broker like Pacific Prime China. Almost all of the major international insurers and plans we work with globally are available in the country with most of the insurers working with local partners. We only sell products that are legally licensed to be sold in China meaning you receive top quality coverage without the potential hassle of legal issues.

If you are looking to learn more about your health insurance options, please contact us today.