Health Insurance

All the latest articles on health insurance in China.

China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

China bird flu cases are surging, in deadliest outbreak since 2009

Recent news headlines have reported a surge in the China bird flu death toll, where in the months of January and February a total of 140 people died from the deadly H7N9 strain of the bird flu virus. The amount of deaths in the first two months of 2017 alone has already surpassed the annual totals of avian flu reported in recent years. In 2010, the H1N1 subtype led to a death toll of 147.

The alarming spike of avian flu recorded in 2017 has thus placed the H7N9 strain of bird flu at the top of the list of pandemic threats from among a dozen avian and animal flu viruses, which has afflicted several hundred people in China for the past few flu seasons, since the first human case was reported in 2013.

Where did bird flu H7N9 originate from?

First discovered in China back in 2013, the H7N9 strain of bird flu was relatively rare, with about 100 to 300 reported cases each year. However, this flu season has seen a whopping 460 confirmed cases of H7N9, mostly in eastern China. This is quite alarming, considering that the average cases of H7N9 between 2013 to 2016 is around 200.

Avian flu has been around for a long time, and first originated in aquatic birds (e.g. ducks), who occasionally make their way into domestic poultry flocks (e.g. chicken). The virus can then trigger sporadic human infections, usually among people who work within close vicinity of infected poultry, e.g. in wet markets.

In December last year, Hinchliffe and three co-authors published a book titled: Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics, which argued that a number of factors, including selective breeding and the surge in poultry populations, have facilitated the evolution of bird flu. For instance, the use of antibiotics in making birds grow faster has meant that disease tolerance is often compromised.

Most bird flu viruses are not lethal to poultry, as they are what scientists term a “low path virus”, which usually causes no disease or only very mild illness in poultry, e.g. a drop in egg production. H7N9 bird flu was originally, up until recently, a low path virus. However, the virus can evolve and become highly pathogenic if they are allowed to circulate for too long, especially in live poultry markets where birds are crowded into small cages, sometimes for several days. This allowed the virus to mutate and spread to humans.

What’s so alarming about the H7N9 strain of bird flu?

460 cases of H7N9 cases may not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t be so sanguine about it:

  1. The H7N9 strain has an alarmingly high fatality rate. 41% of people who get it, die.
  2. In 2017 an evolved form of the H7N9 strain has popped up. As it’s new, the current vaccines don’t work as well against it.
  3. In cases where H7N9 evolves into a high path virus, it can cause illnesses that spread a lot more easily inside the body, thus resulting in more damage and a much higher chance of mortality.

What are the odds that the virus will spread between humans?

Virtually all cases of H7N9 cases have been confined to mainland China, mainly in the provinces of Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Jiangsu. People mainly catch the virus from exposure to infected poultry.

The odds of human-to-human H7N9 bird flu transmission are very low, although this can potentially happen to caregivers or immediate family members with weak immune systems. Further mutations in the virus could also mean that the virus may become more easily transmittable between humans in the future.

What are the symptoms of H7N9 bird flu?

The H7N9 virus causes major respiratory symptoms (e.g. severe pneumonia) that can be life threatening.

During the early stages of an H7N9 infection, people will usually experience the following symptoms, which are much akin to what one experiences with the common flu:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

In later stages, H7N9 infection causes the following:

  • Pneumonia in both lungs
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Multi-organ dysfunction
  • Septic shock (a medical emergency caused by blood infection)
  • Muscle breakdown

What can I do to avoid catching bird flu?

Since H7N9 and other forms of bird flu are mainly transmitted through exposure to infected live poultry, it’s best advised to avoid going to live bird markets or backyard farms, especially in China. Experts say it’s also important to ensure that all poultry products that you’re eating are fully cooked.

Is there a vaccine available to protect yourself against H7N9?

As of the writing of this article, there’s no vaccine publically available to protect against H7N9, although a number pharmaceutical companies have been working on developing vaccines that are currently being tested in animal and human trials. There are however a few vaccines available for preventing the H5N1 subtype of avian flu, which had its first reported outbreak in humans back in 1997.

Are the illnesses caused by H7N9 bird flu treatable?

Antiviral drugs that are used against common flu viruses are also used to treat people infected with H7N9. These include: Oseltamivir (which is sold as Tamiflu), and Zanamivir (sold as Relenza). The most important thing to note here is that these drugs are the most effective when they are administered at the earliest opportunity possible. Another thing to note is that as H7N9 evolves, it may become highly resistant to these drugs.

Final advice

It’s important to consider securing a comprehensive health insurance plan so that, should you require medical care, be it bird flu related or another medical condition, your costs are covered and you are able to access healthcare at the best private facilities in China and internationally. To learn more and get a free quote, contact the insurance experts at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, News
Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

Last year China set itself an ambitious five-year plan to help address climate change. As part of its push to reduce emissions, some of you may remember news about the e-bike ban in March of 2016. The government moved to ban the use of e-bikes in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen in order to gradually remove illegal scooters and mopeds from the roads for safety and environmental reasons.

The result has seen a number of riders swarm motorcycle plate registration centers around Shanghai with many temporary plates for scooters and mopeds expiring on March 1 of 2017. In the Jiading District, about 600 applicants had arrived daily to get new plates for their vehicles near the Jia’an Highway. But why the rush and what does this mean for motorcycle riders in China?

Why are e-bikes, scooters and mopeds being targeted?

The China transportation authority statistics showed that 31,404 accidents in Beijing involved e-bikes, with 113 killed and over 21,000 injured. With the capital estimated to have four million e-bikes, the fact that they account for near 37% of all traffic accident injuries means the government has had to think of ways to deal with their high risk of incidents and rider habits of ignoring traffic rules.

Furthermore, vehicle emissions accounted for a whopping two-thirds of Beijing’s air pollution, with much of the danger also passing to nearby provinces such as Hebei. With all but one of the capital city’s power generation stations being non-renewable (including three coal powered stations), even the four million e-bikes will have their eco-friendly status tested during recharging.

New traffic fines for scooters and mopeds

In Shanghai, people riding scooters and mopeds without appropriate license plates could be fined up to ¥200 yuan if caught by traffic police. Applying for a plate is as simple as visiting a registration center with your identity card, a photocopy of your ID, and a certificate of quality for your scooter. Foreigners should also be aware that these laws also apply to them, so if you own a motorbike it’s worth checking that it’s road legal after March 1.  

Scooter and moped restrictions

The website SH Bicycle has a list of approved and legal mopeds/scooters, although the site’s content is currently only available in Chinese. In Shanghai, the city only allows scooters and mopeds with a top speed of 20 kilometers an hour or less. Riders should also note that the bike dimensions may only be 30 centimeters wide and 1.35 meters long.

If your vehicle exceeds those restrictions, you can expect the transport authority to decline your application for an approved license plate.

Staying safe on Chinese roads

One of the other reasons for the government targeting of mopeds and scooters is to reduce the chance of accidents, injury and death on the roads. With both campaigns against drunk driving and testing delivery drivers on road safety, roads in Shanghai and other cities can be fairly dangerous. Getting vehicle insurance is smart for ensuring your personal property, but what about your health?

Pacific Prime China has a number of expert advisers who can make sure you’re insured healthcare-wise should something happen on Chinese roads. Their more than 15 years’ experience means that you can be sure that the insurance coverage you pay for will cover you if the unthinkable happens.

For a free quote, or for just some friendly advice on insuring your health as a motorbike rider, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
Expat dental insurance in China: Things to consider

Expat dental insurance in China: Things to consider

It is widely known that the cost of dental care varies greatly in China. This is especially true for private clinics, as you will find that advertised prices for dental procedures differ in every facility. Many expats prefer private clinics for treatment from staff that speak their language, the superior service offered, and flexible consultation times. These perks do however come with a hefty price tag, so securing expat dental insurance can be a great way to access high quality care without breaking the bank.

What’s the current status of dental health in China?

Historically speaking, dental health awareness is generally lacking in China. However, living standards have improved considerably in recent years, which has led to a greater number of people paying attention to their dental health. This, combined with the fact that roughly 94 percent of the population has some form of dental condition, makes it understandable that demand for dental care is growing in the country.

Growing demand for dental care

Despite the growing number of private dental clinics in China, supply is still very much outpaced by demand. When compared to the supply of dentists in Western countries, China lags behind with only 100 dentists per one million people. This is a stark difference from 1,270 dentists per one million in Greece, 830 dentists per one million in Sweden, and 770 dentists per one million in Germany. However, over the upcoming years, the dental sector is set to grow amidst a burgeoning middle class, as well as increasing openness to foreign investment in China.

How dental insurance works

Typically speaking, many employer-provided health insurance plans won’t provide dental benefits, which is why many expats choose to secure a separate plan that includes dental coverage. In most cases, dental insurance is available to purchase as a supplementary benefit on top of a health insurance plan at an additional premium.

The cost of this additional premium differs between plans and by insurer, but you can expect that adding dental benefits will result in a higher premium than a similar plan without these benefits.

What does expat dental insurance in China cover?

In China, there are two main types of dental insurance coverage: Routine Dental Treatment and Major Dental Treatment.

Routine Dental Treatment covers more common forms of dental care such as:

  • Consultations and exams
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Fillings
  • Tooth extraction
  • Emergency dental treatment
  • X-rays
  • Prescriptions

If you require more comprehensive dental benefits, then there is also the option of Major Dental Treatment, which covers more extensive forms of dental procedures. As such, this option charges a higher premium than Routine Dental Treatment. Coverage for Major Dental Treatment will usually include:

  • Periodontic (gum) treatment
  • Bridgework
  • Orthodontic work (e.g. braces)
  • Dentures
  • Crowns
  • Root scaling

Please note that most dental policies only cover treatments that are considered medically necessary, so cosmetic procedures such as tooth whitening won’t be covered, although some plans do offer discounts on certain types of cosmetic dental work.

Does the plan have a waiting period?

It’s not unusual to find a waiting period on dental plans lasting anywhere from 1 month to 24 months. This is the period of time you will need to wait once you’ve purchased your plan before you can make a claim on any dental benefits. During this time, you will likely receive little to no benefits.

Will you be travelling for dental care?

Travelling for dental care has become increasingly common in China, and there are many popular travel destinations nearby (e.g. Thailand and Malaysia) that boast excellent dental facilities at a great value. If you’re considering travelling overseas for treatment, or if you travel and/or move countries often and would like the option of keeping up with your annual dental check-ups wherever you are in the world, securing international insurance coverage may be an ideal option for you and your family. Designed with the needs of expats in mind, these international plans are globally portable, meaning that you will be covered in any country where your plan can be used.

When it comes to shopping around for an expat dental insurance plan, there can be quite a few things to consider, and also a variety of policy stipulations and limitations to watch out for. That is why it often pays to seek advice from an insurance expert like Pacific Prime China. To talk to one of our experienced advisors, feel free to contact us today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

Working abroad in China can be both a wondrous and daunting experience. In a land with such a rich culture and varied terrain, one can easily be captivated by the country’s beauty and color. However, the environmental hazards that have come with modernization and challenges faced by those that are not fluent in Mandarin can certainly take a toll on China newbies. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than the Chinese healthcare system, where greatly varying levels of care and foreigner-friendliness can leave expats guessing as to which direction to go. On top of the issue of medical care, there is also the issue of payment. That’s why it’s good to have an overview of the pros and cons of both international and local China health insurance plans, which Pacific Prime China provides below.

China health insurance

Before getting into the pros and cons of each type of plan, it would be good to mention the pros and cons of insurance policies themselves. This gives us a good base of knowledge before we focus on the finer aspects of local vs. international health insurance.

Pros

  • Having private China health insurance allows for access to private healthcare facilities with doctors that speak languages from all over the world. If your medical Mandarin is far from fluent, this is going to go a long way towards helping put you at ease should you need to visit the hospital with a serious condition. After all, effective communication with medical professionals is a must when it comes to effectively addressing your own health needs.
  • Another advantage of accessing private hospitals in China is the shorter waiting times that are found there. This will ensure that you are not placed on a waiting list to receive treatment should the hospital deem it to not be an emergency. Private hospitals will treat you quickly and efficiently.
  • Finally, private hospitals, while they cost more for treatment, generally provide a higher quality of care for their patients. This is due to their possession of the latest medical equipment, as well as internationally trained medical staff.

Cons

Medical insurance isn’t without its drawbacks, including the following:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Exclusions
  • Age limits

However, depending on your specific needs, there may be plans available that address these items.

Now let’s dig into the differences between local and international China health insurance.

Local insurance

Pro

By far the biggest advantage of sticking with a local insurance plan is that it will always come with a lower price tag. Since medical costs are well controlled in China, insurers recognize that the risk to them when it comes to covering said costs are not as high. Comparatively, places like the United States and Hong Kong have some of the most expensive healthcare in the world. Therefore, if an insurance company provides global coverage, they are opening themselves up to greater risk, so they charge a higher premium.

Con

As alluded to above, local China health insurance plans only provide healthcare coverage inside of China. This means that if you were to travel anywhere outside of Mainland China’s borders, you will not have any health insurance coverage with your local plan, and will have to pay for treatment out of pocket unless you secure a separate insurance plan.

International insurance

Pros

  • Pretty much the main reason to purchase an international health insurance plan is the freedom of choice that it affords you. Not only can you travel to virtually any country worldwide in order to receive medical treatment, you can also choose any hospital or doctor worldwide as well. You will never have to think, “I wonder if they’ll even treat me in this country,” because you will always have proof that you are covered by a reputable global insurance company.
  • Another often overlooked feature of international health insurance plans is that you can take your policy with you no matter where you go. With local insurance plans, if you or your family decides to move outside of China permanently, you will have to purchase a new insurance policy in your new home country. Under this scenario, any conditions developed while on your local China insurance plan will likely be treated as pre-existing conditions by the next insurer, and coverage will not be able to be obtained in many cases. However, with an international plan, you can simply take your plan with you and still receive full coverage.
  • Finally, there are features that you can find in an international health insurance plan that are not present in local plans. For example, medical evacuation is included in international plans. This feature will relocate you to the nearest appropriate medical facility if the one you are in is ill equipped to address your medical needs. If possible, you may even be able to be flown home for treatment. Many international plans also come with 24 hour customer assistance that will help you make medical arrangements when you are abroad. The assistance this service provides can certainly be invaluable.

Con

Again costs are higher when it comes to international health insurance. You do potentially get a whole world more out of your plan, but you need to make sure that an international health insurance plan is right for you. If you rarely travel, a plan with global coverage may be unnecessary. However, if you do find yourself outside of the country regularly, this type of plan may be ideal for you.

Regardless of which type of insurance is right for you, Pacific Prime China can help. We specialize in international health insurance plans that provide coverage both in your country of residence, as well as virtually anywhere else in the world. Of course, we also sell local plans that will address costs only in China for a lower premium. For more information, contact the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime China today! They are standing by to answer any of your questions, provide you with plan comparisons from some of China’s best insurance companies, and give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Mothers-to-be have so much to think about and plan for with regards to the arrival of their new bundle of joy. Baby showers, room decorations, picking the right colors for everything depending on if it will be a boy or a girl. These are the types of fun things that people prefer to focus on when imagining their new family unit. What we don’t like to think about are the unpleasant thoughts of what could go wrong during pregnancy, labor and delivery. This is a sad fact, as planning ahead is imperative if you want to make sure that your new baby is completely covered by medical insurance no matter what happens. Here, Pacific Prime China examines how you can make sure your newborn is covered by maternity insurance in China.

What is Maternity Insurance and what does it cover?

Maternity Insurance in China is a separate type of coverage from what normally comes with health insurance coverage. This is because it is specially designed to address the costs associated with the development and birth of a new baby. Since a certain amount of cost is all but guaranteed should a woman become pregnant, as opposed to normal health insurance, in which some people may not get sick while insured, these plans can be a bit pricey and come with restrictions, perhaps the biggest of which are waiting periods, which we will address below.

As far as specific benefits provided by Maternity Insurance, after conception it includes benefits for pre-natal care, which can include medical consultations, regular checkups, ultrasounds, blood and urine tests, birth defect screenings and more. Then, once your bun has been in the oven long enough, Maternity Insurance will pay for the costs of labor and delivery, as well as costs related to the treatment of any complications at birth for both mother and child. It should be noted here that Maternity Insurance provides benefits regardless of your baby being born naturally or via caesarian section.

Beyond these items which are normally covered by Maternity Insurance, plans can also provide benefits for fertility treatment (including In-Vitro Fertility treatment), and costs related to treatment of congenital birth defects.

Why obtain Maternity Insurance in China?

Generally speaking, what level of insurance coverage would parents want when it comes to the birth of their new child? The best, of course! However, without Maternity Insurance, your options for affordable labor and delivery can be limited. This is because the best healthcare provided in China is found in private hospitals, which are a great deal more expensive than what you can expect to pay at public facilities. In fact, you can pay as much as RMB 100,000 for a maternity delivery package in a Chinese public hospital in a city like Shanghai.

Beyond just the price and level of care, there are other considerations that expatriates living in China should account for. One of the largest among these is the potential language barrier. If you are not fluent in Mandarin, then you may have trouble communicating with staff at public hospitals in China, which could be a source of great tension and worry if things seem to go the slightest bit wrong. At private hospitals in China, there are internationally trained doctors and finding one that speaks your language should not be too much trouble. This is all the more reason to ensure that you are free to attend a private hospital.

Waiting periods

A waiting period is a specific amount of time that must pass following the start of an insurance policy before a claim can be made against it. While most of the time waiting periods are not a hugely significant amount of time, when it comes to Maternity Insurance in China, they can be quite lengthy, and make all the difference in the world as to whether your pregnancy, labor and delivery will be covered or not. This is because many insurance companies will make their members possess maternity insurance for 12 months before it can be claimed against.

Now, you may be doing the math and saying, “Wait a minute. That means that if I get Maternity Insurance just before I get pregnant, I won’t have any coverage for my pregnancy.” That’s right. Not only is it far too late to have the lab tests, doctors visits, labor and delivery covered after a child has already been conceived, even if you won’t be pregnant for a month Maternity Insurance is almost certainly likely to not pay out. While there are plans available with waiting periods of only 10 months, this is likely the shortest you will find on the market. And even with a 10 month waiting period, you would want to avoid getting pregnant one month after obtaining such a plan because pre-mature births do happen, and you could miss out on covering birthing costs if the baby comes early.

What to do if it’s too late for maternity coverage

In the event that you are pregnant and do not have a Maternity Insurance plan in place, your options are certainly more limited, but there are still steps you can take to protect your baby as much as possible. Specifically, obtaining a newborn health insurance policy would be an excellent idea.  While this type of insurance does not address costs associated specifically with pregnancy, labor, delivery, or complications that occur prior to birth, after your baby arrives it can be invaluable. This is because, even after getting through the entire birthing process, a newborn is still quite vulnerable to a whole host of diseases that can be acquired almost immediately once he or she is out in the open.

The moral of the story: Plan ahead!

Obviously, if you want to get Maternity Insurance in China, you are going to need to overcome the waiting periods attached to most plans. That means that you need to have a plan in place well ahead of when you plan to conceive in order to be covered through the duration of your pregnancy – up to a year in advance of conception! For this reason, communicate openly with your partner about the timing of your next baby, and get your Maternity Insurance plan now and not when it’s too late.

If you have any questions about the information presented above, or when to secure maternity insurance before it is too late, contact the knowledgeable insurance experts at Pacific Prime China. Our agents are standing by to not only provide you with comparisons of insurance plans offered by China’s best insurers, but also give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Health Insurance, Maternity Insurance