Top-up insurance: What is it, what does it cover, and why might I need it?

Top-up insurance: What is it, what does it cover, and why might I need it?

As one of the most coveted employee benefit perks, a growing number of companies in China are offering group health insurance to stay competitive in retaining and attracting top talent. In fact, around 65 percent of employees in China have some form of employer-provided health insurance coverage. That said, common coverage deficiencies in corporate health insurance have led to growing demand for top-up insurance products in the nation.

To address the most commonly asked questions about top-up insurance in the two most populous expat cities in China, our team of insurance experts at Pacific Prime China have recently released 2017-2018 Top-Up Guides for both Shanghai and Beijing. This week’s blog post provides an overview of what the guide covers, as well as what a top-up plan is, what it covers, and why you would need it.

Inside our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up Guides

Our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up guides are valuable resources for anyone possessing employer-provided health coverage who is considering additional options to supplement it, or who feels that their corporate cover may not be quite enough. By downloading our Shanghai or Beijing Top-Up Guide, you’ll get answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we get around top-up insurance, including:

  • What is a top-up plan?
  • What are the main hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing?
  • What are the most common deficiencies in employer-provided health plans?
  • What are the costs of treatment at public vs private hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing?
  • What are the top-up insurance solutions available to you?
  • And more.

To answer the above questions the best we can, both Top-Up guides are broken down into five easy-to-read sections:

  1. Background on top-up insurance plans in Shanghai/ Beijing
  2. Hospitals in Shanghai/ Beijing
  3. Common employer-provided insurance policy gaps
  4. Actual costs of medical treatments and surgeries in Shanghai/ Beijing
  5. Insurance solutions available to address deficiencies in employer-provided plans

Best of all, our Shanghai and Beijing Top-Up Guides are both available to download for FREE from the health insurance guides section of our website, which also features a whole range of other insurance and healthcare related guides dedicated to simplifying insurance for expats living in China.

What is top-up insurance, and what does it cover?

A top-up insurance policy provides additional coverage benefits to make up for the gaps and deficiencies in an existing employer-provided health insurance policy. It can work out to be the cheapest option for complementing your corporate cover, especially when compared to purchasing a separate medical insurance policy from scratch.

With a top-up plan, you can lower your premiums by using your employer-provided health insurance as a primary level of coverage, and then making claims with your top-up plan where hospital bills have exceeded or are not part of the coverage benefits included in your company health insurance plan. In the table below, we’ve included an example of how a top-up arrangement may work vis-à-vis an employer-provided plan:


top-up insurance exampleSource: Shanghai Top-Up Guide 2017-2018

In addition to topping up on coverage limits, another major advantage of top-up insurance is that it can offer extra benefits that are not covered by your existing corporate health insurance plan. These can include benefits for serious illnesses, out-patient cover (e.g. vaccinations, specialist visits, health screenings, Traditional Chinese Medicine), maternity, dental, and vision cover, as well as extended geographical coverage (i.e. international cover).

Why do I need top-up insurance?

Top-up insurance can be the best, most cost-effective solution for complementing and making up for deficiencies in employer-provided cover. This is especially true for employees who have very basic employer-provided health insurance, or a corporate policy that does not suit their healthcare requirements, as top-up plans can really help reduce the financial risk of spending hundreds and thousands out of pocket on treatments not covered by company health insurance.

One major factor boosting demand for top-up plans in China is the ever-increasing cost of care, which has illuminated the need to secure more comprehensive private health insurance with higher limits and more coverage benefits for better protection.

The need for supplementary health insurance coverage is even greater if you usually/ only seek care at private facilities, where costs are in most cases significantly higher than public hospitals. For instance, a GP visit at a VIP clinic or international hospital in Shanghai can cost up to RMB 1,000, and a health checkup can cost up to RMB 12,200.

Further tests and procedures will cost more, e.g. a colonoscopy costs around RMB 12,000, an emergency surgical procedure usually costs around RMB 50,000, and a maternity c-section package costs up to RMB 98,000. With these costs in mind, it is easy to see why securing a top-up plan can really help in further offsetting your medical expenses.

Get your copy of the Top-Up Guide today

For a more in-depth overview on everything you need to know about top-up insurance in Shanghai or Beijing, be sure to get your free PDF copy by clicking on the link(s) below today:

If you have any more questions, or would like to learn about your top-up options in China, get in touch with our helpful advisors at Pacific Prime China today. With years of experience offering impartial advice to expats in China, our experts are standing by to answer all your questions, match you with the best insurance solutions for your needs, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Group Health Insurance, Health Insurance
New guide compares public and private Shanghai healthcare

New guide compares public and private Shanghai healthcare

If you’re new to the city, or looking to learn more about your Shanghai healthcare options, our new Public and Private Healthcare in Shanghai guide could prove to be a valuable resource in helping you find the best care possible. Best of all, the new free guide answers the top questions asked by expats moving to or living in Shanghai, and provides useful information on public vs private hospitals, what you can expect to pay at different facilities, the health insurance options available, and more.

Download Pacific Prime China’s latest guide from our Health Insurance Guides page today, or read on to learn more about our latest resource and what it covers.

Inside our Public and Private Healthcare in Shanghai guide

As the most populous city in China, Shanghai is home to a high number of public and private healthcare facilities, with many options catering to different budget and language requirements. The quality of care, however, can vary significantly depending on which facility you go to. This, coupled with the language barrier for non-Chinese speakers, can make it difficult for expats looking to find the best Shanghai healthcare. As such, we’ve created our new Public and Private Healthcare guide to demystify the healthcare options available to expats in the city.

Download our guide today to learn about:

  • The history of healthcare in China
  • The differences between public hospitals, VIP clinics, private hospitals, and international hospitals
  • The cost of care and your health insurance options
  • How to handle medical emergencies in Shanghai

Below, we take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions that our new Shanghai healthcare guide can help answer:

What are the main differences between public and private hospitals in Shanghai?

In Shanghai, there are several types of healthcare facilities to choose from:

Public hospitals and VIP clinics

As a first-tier city, Shanghai has a relatively modern healthcare infrastructure. Public hospital care is usually very affordable, but please be aware that the quality of care can vary significantly depending on which hospital you go to. Public facilities can also be very overcrowded, and are sometimes far less clean than what most Westerners are accustomed to. Coupled with long waiting times and a lack of English speaking doctors, it’s easy to see why most foreigners prefer seeking care at VIP clinics, private hospitals, or international hospitals.

Large public hospitals in Shanghai will have what are called VIP clinics, which are associated with public hospitals but often have English-speaking doctors, the ability to book an appointment with a preferred doctor, and more privacy. That said, VIP clinics often only operate during working hours, and charge higher fees than their non-VIP counterpart.

Private and international hospitals

As China started welcoming foreign investment in private hospitals, private care has continued to flourish around the country and in urban centers like Shanghai. Many private facilities have been outfitted with outstanding medical technology. Most expats prefer seeking treatment at private or foreign-run international hospitals to benefit from short waiting times, the ability to book appointments with a preferred doctor, world-class healthcare, and more comfortable hospital accommodation if inpatient care is required. Costs at private and international hospitals, however, easily cost over ten times the price charged for the same treatment at a public hospital. As such, health insurance is highly recommended.

What are my health insurance options?

While national health insurance coverage in China is near-universal, few foreign residents and expats have access to the same coverage benefits as Chinese citizens. Expats are therefore highly advised to secure either a local or international private health insurance policy.

What do I do during a medical emergency?

One of the most important things to prepare for when moving to Shanghai is, of course, what you need to do when faced with a medical emergency. You should be aware that private hospitals are prohibited from privately owning an ambulance fleet. Ambulances in Shanghai are managed by the Shanghai ambulance center with personnel who generally speak little to no English; and sometimes they can be slow to respond to emergency calls. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why many prefer to take a taxi when a medical emergency occurs.

Download our Public and Private Healthcare guide today

To get the answers to all your questions on healthcare in Shanghai, be sure to download our free guide here today. We’ve also released a whole host of other useful guides on health-insurance related topics, which you can access from our Health Insurance Guides page here.

Looking for more in-depth information on Shanghai healthcare, or your health insurance options? Be sure to get in touch with the helpful advisors at Pacific Prime China today, who can offer impartial advice, match you with the best plan based on your needs, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance, News
Health insurance costs: China vs other Asian countries

Health insurance costs: China vs other Asian countries

Ever wondered how much health insurance costs in China, and how it compares with other Asian countries? To investigate medical insurance premiums around the world, a recently released study by Pacific Prime, titled: Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017, analyzes the cost of international health insurance in 100 countries, and provides a regional comparison of insurance costs in Asia, Africa, The Americas, The Middle East, and Europe. Here, we look at what the new report has to say about health insurance costs in China vs other Asian countries.

The most expensive countries for health insurance in 2017

Pacific Prime’s annual study includes a ranking section with the 20 most expensive and five least expensive locations for international health insurance in 2017. Let’s take a look at China’s ranking:

Rank Country Average Cost (USD) % of
1 US 19,724 100.0%
2 Hong Kong 12,585 63.8%
3 Singapore 10,732 54.4%
4 China 10,695 54.2%
5 Canada 10,263 52.0%
6 Israel 9,989 50.6%
7 UK 9,467 48.0%
8 Argentina 8,994 45.6%
9 Dubai 8,959 45.4%
10 Taiwan 8,812 44.7%

Note: Health insurance costs stated in the report were derived from premiums charged by 10 major insurers, who each offer three levels of plan: inpatient only, inpatient + outpatient, and inpatient + outpatient + maternity. Based on these plans, Pacific Prime pulled premiums from the four most common demographics who buy international medical insurance: individuals (36 year old male), couples (36 year old male and 35 year old female), families (36 year old male, 35 year old female, and two children aged 0 and 5), and retirees (60 year old male). For more information, please refer to the full PDF version of the report.

China’s global ranking

With an average cost of USD 10,695, China ranks closely behind its Asian neighbors Hong Kong and Singapore as the fourth most expensive location in the world for international health insurance. An interesting thing to note here is that China’s ranking actually decreased from third place in previous editions of the report to fourth place in 2017. Its average cost also reduced slightly by USD 186 compared to last year’s figure; in 2016, the average cost of international medical insurance in China was USD 10,881. While there are many reasons for this slight decrease, one possible explanation is increased price competition from insurers in China, who are all looking to attract the growing number of expats in the country.

Health insurance costs in China vs other Asian countries

Home to a high number of expats and High Net Worth individuals, the main markets for international insurance products, Asia is a particularly interesting region in regards to international health insurance costs.

The average premium of plans for all demographics in this region spans from USD 12,585 to USD 7,391, with Hong Kong (as shown in the graph below) being the most expensive country, and Pakistan being the least expensive. Originally ranked as the second most costly country in Asia, China now ranks third place due to a slight decrease in overall premiums and a small increase in average health insurance costs in Singapore. Neighbouring countries Taiwan and Vietnam take fourth and fifth place, with an average premium of USD 8,812 and USD 8,746, respectively.

Interesting changes revealed in this year’s ranking

Among four other key findings, the analysis section of the report presents analysis on two main findings that are particular to the Asia region:

  1. As we mentioned above, Singapore has surpassed China as the third most expensive location for international health insurance in the world.
  2. Five Southeast Asian countries increased in ranking globally:
    • Singapore – From 5th place in 2016 to 3rd in 2017
    • Vietnam – From 32nd place in 2016 to 13th in 2017
    • Thailand – From 36th place in 2016 to 14th in 2017
    • Indonesia – From 24th place in 2016 to 19th in 2017
    • Malaysia – From 86th place in 2016 to 20th in 2017

Download the Cost of International Health Insurance – 2017 report

For more in-depth analysis on the key findings addressed in this article, and to learn about the average premiums for each of the four main demographics in China, be sure to get your free copy of Pacific Prime’s latest report today. The report can be accessed either from our homepage, as an online version which presents an overview of the study’s main findings, or as a full PDF version (contains full rankings and analysis).

If you have any more questions, or would like to have a chat about your insurance options with an expert, contact Pacific Prime China today. With years of experience operating in China, our team of advisors are on hand to offer impartial advice based on your needs, match you with the best health insurance plan, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
New Beijing and Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guides released

New Beijing and Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guides released

Planning for a baby can be a rewarding yet daunting experience, and as such it’s important to find enough time to educate yourselves about the options available so that you never feel lost when it comes to pregnancy and giving birth in China. To help, we’ve released two brand new guides, both titled: Maternity Insurance Guide 2017 – 2018.

One focusing on Beijing and the other on Shanghai, our new guides are valuable resources for expectant parents and anyone seeking information on the cost of maternity, as well as what they need to know about maternity insurance in the nation’s most popular expat cities.

Best of all, our guides are completely free to download from our health guides page. Simply click here to download your free copy of the Beijing Maternity Insurance Guide, or here to download the Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guide.

Inside our Beijing and Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guides

Featuring important tips and a summary of all key information our team of maternity insurance experts (and moms!) have gathered over the years, our Beijing and Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guides cover everything you need to know about the best hospitals as well as what you can expect to pay for maternity in the respective cities. On top of that, our new guides also feature important maternity insurance terms and key coverage options you may want to consider as an expat planning for maternity in Beijing or Shanghai.

Top tips to consider

In our goal to simplify health insurance, our easy-to-read Maternity Insurance Guides are designed to help anyone seeking information on maternity in Beijing and/or Shanghai – even those with little or limited knowledge of the Chinese healthcare system. Not only that, but we’ve also included several top tips to consider when planning for pregnancy in China, including:

  • Plan ahead: Virtually all maternity insurance plans come with a waiting period of at least 10 months before coverage will apply. It is therefore strongly advised that you secure maternity insurance well ahead of conception.
  • Take into account all expenses: When planning for maternity, there are many costs to consider, including the cost of giving birth, as well as pre & post-natal expenses. Private facilities are known to charge hefty amounts for care, with C-section delivery in Beijing costing up to RMB 88,000, and up to RMB 110,000 in Shanghai. Obtaining the right maternity insurance is therefore a great way to offset these high costs.
  • Be prepared for all possible outcomes: Unfortunately, not every pregnancy goes according to plan, as it’s also a time of heightened risk for mothers and their babies. To truly protect yourself from the unexpected, it is important to ensure that your insurance covers things such as the cost of neonatal intensive care units (NICU), and premature birth.
  • Understand the available benefits and limits: Like all insurance products, maternity insurance plans can be tailored to meet your needs. Our Beijing and Shanghai guides both include a glossary with the most commonly used terms in the industry.

Partner with a China maternity insurance expert

Our advisors are experts in the field of maternity insurance. To offer greater insight into everything you need to know about maternity insurance in Beijing and Shanghai, we’ve included brief excerpts from two of our advisors who have been through the insurance system first hand in the respective cities.

Here’s an excerpt from Maggie, Senior Advisor and Team Leader at Pacific Prime Beijing:

“It is very important to plan ahead. I recommend to start researching for a plan at least 6 months prior to pregnancy to ensure that you meet the 12 months waiting period of maternity cover. Our experienced advisors will work with you to make sure you understand the different benefits and service levels of each insurer, and will also remind you of the limitations such as baby wellness.”


And here’s an excerpt from Crystal, Head of Sales at Pacific Prime Shanghai:

Crystal“If you do plan on giving birth in private hospitals in the city it is important to secure maternity coverage and heed the cost. If you have any questions regarding cover, we are more than happy to help.”



When choosing the best maternity insurance, you can’t go wrong with getting impartial advice from an expert who has years of experience helping clients with all sorts of maternity insurance-related matters. Our staff are not only there to give you advice and find you the best plan, but will also support you every step of the way in ensuring that your claims and administration processes go as smoothly as possible.

Download our new Maternity Insurance Guides today

To get all the answers to the most commonly asked questions about maternity in Beijing and Shanghai, click on the links below to download your free copy of the Beijing/ Shanghai Maternity Insurance Guide:

If you have any further questions please be sure to contact the helpful advisors at Pacific Prime China today, who are here to answer all your questions, offer impartial advice, and give you a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance, Maternity Insurance, News
Large spike in births following the new two-child policy in China

Large spike in births following the new two-child policy in China

In an effort to reduce China’s ageing rate and combat its shrinking workforce, the Chinese government announced in October 2015 that they would replace their infamous one-child policy with a two-child policy. The new universal two-child policy, implemented in January 1 2016, now allows all couples nationwide to have two children. Health authorities believe this is the main reason why the number of births in 2016 has reached an all-time high this century.

While there has indeed been a noticeable spike in the number of births following the new two-child policy, some argue that this increase can also be attributed to other major factors, such as more parents waiting until 2016 so their children can be born in the auspicious year of the monkey. The increase in pregnancies has also illuminated several maternity-related health challenges, such as more women giving birth in later years. Today, our article takes an in-depth look at what’s causing the large spike in births, and highlights the maternity-related health challenges seen in China.

Background on the two-child policy

Since the one-child policy was first introduced in 1979, a number of adjustments were made to relax this rule. For instance, those who lived in the countryside were long allowed to have a second child as long as they met certain conditions, e.g. if their first child is a girl. Ethnic minorities are often allowed two children or more. In urban areas, couples were permitted to have two children if both parents were themselves only children.

Due to China’s rapidly ageing population and plunging birthrate, a major policy change was implemented in 2013, allowing couples nationwide to have a second child if either parent was an only child. In January 1 2016, the new two-child policy came into effect, allowing all couples to have two children.

Birth numbers since the introduction of China’s two-child policy

A whopping 18.5 million babies were born in mainland hospitals in 2016, representing a near 12% increase from the number of births recorded the year before. In 2017, the latest data available shows that, between January and May, 7.4 million babies were born, an increase of 7.8 percent when compared to the same period in 2016. According to demographer Yuan Xin from Nankai University, the number of births in China is expected to peak to around 20 million in 2017 and 2018.

Proportion of babies born to parents who already had a first child

Interestingly, nearly half of all births in 2016 occurred in families which already had one child. In fact, the proportion of babies born to parents who already had a first child increased from 30% in 2013 to 45% in 2016. What’s more, over half of all reported births between January and May this year involved a second child.

What’s causing the spike in birth numbers?

According to Yang Wenzhuang, a division director at the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the newly implemented two-child policy has proved to be effective in increasing the birth rate in China, even while the number of women of childbearing age is decreasing. Ma Xioawei, a vice-minister of the commission, further commented that many couples from the generation born in the 1970s are rushing to have a second child so that they don’t miss their last chance.

On the other hand, when asked about the 60% spike in demand seen in many hospitals across the country, nurses say that, rather than the policy change, the spike in births was mainly attributed to couples wanting to give birth to their child in the auspicious year of the monkey. In order to ascertain whether the increase in births represents a temporary spike or a steady trend, we will need more time to wait and see, as the new two-child policy has only been implemented last year.

Increasing maternity-related health concerns

The increase in the number of pregnancies has illuminated the rise in maternity-related health challenges seen in China, which is mainly due to a growing number of women giving birth over the age of 35. In fact, it is expected that the number of pregnant women over 35 years old will remain at about 3 million through 2020. Giving birth at a later age can often result in a higher risk of developing complications. For instance, in Guilin 28% of women who gave birth in 2016 were at a higher risk in pregnancy and childbirth, one major factor behind this being age.

The need for maternity insurance

Despite the recent spike in births, fast-rising healthcare costs has meant that many parents out there are still hesitant about having another child or having any children at all. Prenatal and childbirth costs can be astronomical, e.g. a C-section delivery in Beijing can cost over RMB 100,000, and up to RMB 300,000 in Shanghai for a premium C-section package.

With these high costs in mind, having maternity insurance in place when you’re planning to have a baby can really help to offset sky high maternity costs. One thing to note here is that maternity insurance will be attached with a waiting period, usually lasting around 10 to 12 months, which means that securing maternity insurance before conception is key.

To learn more about maternity in China, or your maternity insurance options, why not contact Pacific Prime China today?

Posted by Jess in Maternity Insurance, News