Health Insurance

All the latest articles on health insurance in China.

Bike-Sharing Insurance in China: Cities decide to protect riders

Bike-Sharing Insurance in China: Cities decide to protect riders

In years gone by, China had reached its peak saturation for bicycles. In the 1990s country had 670 million bikes on the roads. Since then, the population of China has grown, but the number of bikes out there has actually lowered to about half a billion. That number works out to about 1 bike per household in China, which would seem to make them fairly ubiquitous. To be sure, there are still more than double the number of bicycles on the roads of China than there are automobiles. Nevertheless, the gap in the umber between these two competing conveyances has been narrowing yearly. In fact, due to the increasing number of cars on the road, even with fewer bikes out there the roads in China are now more dangerous for cyclists than ever, and the government is pondering insisting on bike-sharing insurance.

There are new businesses in China that have a direct stake in road safety. Bicycle sharing companies have made noble strides toward providing quick and easy access to bikes in the hopes of getting more people cycling and reducing the amount of smog being pumped into the air by autos. No good deed goes unpunished though, as the government has laid out regulations that need to be met by these companies. What are the details? Find out more as we delve into this topic, as well as the issue of bike accidents in China more broadly.

Bike accidents in China

There are now over 40 cities in China that have over 1 million cars and trucks present in them. 11 of these even have over 2 million, including Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Tianjin. There has been a boom in recent years when it has come to the number of motorized vehicles on China’s roads. While 2007 saw 59 million vehicles on the road in China, in 2015 this number had risen to 172 million. Today, China has the same number of vehicles on the road as the United States – 250 million – but also has 2 and a half times the number of child fatalities caused by traffic accidents. Along with this growth in vehicle population, there has been a distinct rise in the number of bicycle accidents. In fact, from 1992 to 2004, the mortality rate for bike riders in China almost doubled.  It has also been reported that the majority of fatalities in China road accidents are ‘vulnerable road users’, which include cyclists in addition to pedestrians and motorcyclists. There are 700 people that die in road accidents everyday in China, and 60% of these are vulnerable road users.  

Adding to the road accident issue in the country is the fact that, of the bicycles in use by the Chinese public today, about 200 million of them are e-bikes. These motorized bicycles can now go as fast as 30km/hr, and have also been partially attributed with the uptick in road accidents. Some cities, such as Shenzhen, have even gone so far as to ban the battery-powered bikes outright. This decision left the city’s 500,000 e-bike owners hung out to dry. Beijing has also banned e-bikes on certain streets in the city.

Bike-sharing insurance regulations

Bike-sharing companies in China, like Mobike and Ofo, have garnered greater and greater prominence in China’s transportation landscape in recent years, or even months.  As recently as 2017, it has been said these companies have brought over 2 million new bikes to China’s city streets. Unlike bike-sharing companies in other countries, these bikes are incredibly easy to access and use, as they can be picked up and left literally anywhere. However, the success of these companies and sheer number of bikes that have been added to the street have caught the attention of government regulators.

For example, recently in Shanghai, it’s rumored that an order was made that major bike-sharing companies must halt adding new bikes to their respective fleets. Similarly, it was recently announced that Beijing would become the 5th metropolitan area in China to start laying out firm regulations, including bike-sharing insurance requirements, for bike-sharing companies. Aspects of bike-sharing insurance mentioned include making claims processing for bicycle accidents more consumer friendly and encouraging bike-sharing companies to purchasing third party liability and personal accident insurance that will cover their customers. Additionally, the government believes that bike-sharing companies should be actively working to assist consumers with insurance claims related to accidents that involve their bikes. Cities including Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and more are all mulling over imposing insurance requirements on these companies.

Bicycle insurance and you

The above information may lead you to ask, “So if the government is imposing bike-sharing insurance regulations on companies that provide bicycles, does that mean I need to have insurance to ride my own private bike?” The answer, as you might expect, is no. Private citizens are free to ride their own bicycles without insurance.  Of course, doing so means that you are responsible for any and all damages you may do to others while riding your bike. You also may not be guaranteed to have your medical expenses taken care of if you are in an accident, even if it occurs through no fault of your own.

This can be important for expats in China should be especially concerned with, as getting into an accident without insurance coverage may end up with you receiving treatment in a public hospital that won’t be ideal. Not only because there can be issues created by long lines and quality of medical equipment, but also because only private international hospitals are expected to have doctors and staff that can speak English or other languages besides Mandarin.

If you are a cyclist in China, especially in urban areas with heavy vehicle traffic, you are going to want to make sure that you have a private medical insurance plan for two reasons. The first among these is to make sure that you are protected from burdensome medical debt should you be involved in a serious accident that may require surgery or feature complications. The second reason is so that you will have access to the best quality hospitals and doctors in your area, rather than risk being turned away due to not having proof that you will be able to pay.

In order to compare plans from local and international insurers and see all of your options quickly and easily, utilize the expertise of the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime China. Our staff is standing by to give you a plan comparison and price quotation for plans that will provide you with health insurance coverage both in China and abroad.

Posted by Travis Jones in Health Insurance
Fighting the health effects of air pollution: The benefits of antioxidants and omega-3s

Fighting the health effects of air pollution: The benefits of antioxidants and omega-3s

Take a deep breath: 1.6 million people die in China every year from breathing toxic air pollution. Over 300 cities in the nation suffer from worrying levels of harmful air pollutants, especially in the northern region. E.g. in December 2016, the capital of northern Hebei province, Shijiazhuang, recorded 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter small enough to travel deep into the lungs). This far exceeds the WHO guideline of no more than 10 micrograms – by 100 times!

As touched upon in our recent article on reducing the health risks of air pollution, wearing a protective mask, decreasing your time spent outdoors and using an air purifier can help provide protection from smog. What’s more, proactive diners are also fighting the harmful health effects of smog by changing what they eat. This week’s article explains everything you need to know about the link between healthier eating and the effects of air pollution.

The negative health effects of air pollution

Before we look at how healthy eating can help combat smog, let’s first address the negative health effects of air pollution. Exposure to toxic levels of PM2.5 increases the risk of numerous short and long term harmful health effects.

Groups that are more vulnerable to these harmful health risks include the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and people suffering from conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

Short term health effects

According to National Geographic, the temporary health effects from exposure to air pollution include:

  • Pneumonia, a lung infection which causes lung inflammation
  • Bronchitis, an inflammation of the bronchial tube lining
  • Wheezing
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin

Long term health effects

Long term effects from exposure to air pollution are more serious, and can last for several years up to an entire lifetime. They can even lead to mortality. These effects include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Respiratory disease (e.g. emphysema)
  • Nerve, brain, kidney, and liver damage
  • Some scientists believe it may also cause birth defects

To avoid these harmful health risks, it’s therefore important to adopt protection strategies to minimize the effects of smog.

How healthier eating can address the effects of air pollution

As the Chinese urban population continues to grow, this has in effect created a shift from the traditional preference for fresh food and wet markets to prepackaged foods and supermarkets. Major international retail giants like ParkNshop and Carrefour, as well as Chinese retail chains and convenient stores continue to thrive as a strong platform targeting the younger generation with ready-to-eat meals and processed foods. As a result, there’s a worrying trend towards a growing number of people adopting diets characterized by low nutrient profiles (e.g. lacking in antioxidants).

The importance of antioxidants and omega-3s

Eastern and Western practitioners, as well as nutritionists and naturopaths all agree that the type of food we eat have a profound impact on our immune systems. So, why not fortify your diet with the right nutrients? By doing so, we’re helping our bodies remain as healthy as possible so that it’s less vulnerable to contracting diseases.

What are antioxidants?

According to WebMD, antioxidants can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. A person may be exposed to free radicals through air pollutants. As such, adopting a diet rich in antioxidants can be a great way to stabilize these free radicals. For example, regular consumption of fruits and vegetables with carotenoids (e.g. carrots), which is an orange antioxidant pigment, has shown to be effective in reducing the risk of developing lung cancer. Other high antioxidant foods include goji berries, blueberries and kidney beans.

What are omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are the type of fat you don’t want to cut back on. Typically found in fish, seeds and nuts, omega-3s deliver a range of excellent health benefits. For instance, some studies even found that it can help lower levels of depression. Several studies also suggest that foods high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids can help provide protection against inflammation. As a common health effect of air pollution is lung inflammation, consuming omega-3 rich foods such as mackerels, salmon, flaxseed and walnuts may have a beneficial effect on controlling various lung conditions (e.g. asthma).

Does it really work?

The answer to this question will of course depend on your expectations. The idea of healthier eating is that it will help you improve your health and boost your immune system in the long term, so eating a nutrient rich salad for lunch won’t mean that you’ll be breathing easier come bedtime.

As it can be hard to properly measure the benefits of healthier eating, adopting this approach may seem negligible to some, but you could do worse than giving it a try. Of course, besides eating nutrient rich foods, methods such as staying away from heavily trafficked roads and wearing a protective mask are still very important in offsetting the harmful health risks of air pollution.

Final advice: Don’t forget health insurance

While it’s of course important to have a healthy diet, it’s also essential to obtain health insurance should you require medical treatment for air pollution related illnesses or another condition. By securing health insurance, you’ll be able to offset the high cost of private treatment in China or elsewhere.

As virtually every health insurance plan out there is different, it can be tricky to shop around for the best value medical insurance plan that addresses your specific healthcare needs. This is why it can pay to get in touch with an experienced broker like Pacific Prime China.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
Pregnancy technology for tech-savvy parents and parents-to-be

Pregnancy technology for tech-savvy parents and parents-to-be

Let’s face it, welcoming a new addition to the family can be daunting, but pregnancy technology may just help make things incredibly easier for parents and parents-to-be. From conception to pregnancy and beyond, a growing number of consumer gadgets and tools are helping those who want to be more involved in their own care.

Due to a number of reasons, China is a market with huge potential for pregnancy technology. For instance, the newly introduced two-child policy, which came into effect in January 2016, has meant that around 90 million women have become eligible by law to have a second child. As a result, consumer demand for maternity products have since soared dramatically following the new policy relaxation announcement.

From online tools such as ovulation calendars to wearable baby thermometers, our article looks at everything you need to know about pregnancy technology and its role in revolutionizing the maternity experience.

Pre-pregnancy technology: Increasing the odds of pregnancy

For many couples, getting pregnant may require a lot more than just having intercourse. Thankfully, there’s a whole range of pre-pregnancy technology on the market that may just give you the best chance of getting pregnant.

Online ovulation calendars help predict ovulation

Successful conception can come down to an exact science. These days, the internet is full of free online tools that help women predict what time in their cycle they will be ovulating. One such example is our very own ovulation calendar, which you can access by visiting our maternity health insurance page.

Ovulation calendars work by estimating a woman’s fertile days. In other words, it works out the fertile period in a woman’s menstrual cycle when the likelihood of conceiving increases if they have intercourse until two days before and including the day they ovulate. This usually occurs mid-cycle, so ovulation calendars count 14 days backwards from the first day of the woman’s anticipated period.

To use our ovulation calendar, simply enter the date of your last period, and the average length of your cycle. Then, indicate whether your cycle is regular or irregular. After that, click next, and there you have it: you now have an estimation of your next fertile period, as well as the resulting due date.

Testing male fertility from the comfort of your own home

Did you know that around one third of all fertility issues are attributed to men? Common reasons for male fertility issues include low sperm count, as well as reduced sperm mobility. Hailed the “FitBit for sperm”, Trak is a male fertility testing system that allows men to measure and improve their sperm health from the comfort of their own home.

Designed by leading men’s reproductive specialists, it helps men identify whether their sperm concentrations are low, moderate, or optimal. For further information on how Trak works, you can visit their website’s “science behind Trak” page here.

What’s more, the Trak testing system also works with its dedicated Trak: Sperm Health & Fertility app, where users can log and track their sperm test results over time. The app further breaks down semen analysis, and provides personalized tips to improve the user’s reproductive health.

Enhancing the pregnancy experience with prenatal gadgets

Expectant moms want to have the most informed pregnancy possible, and be more involved in their prenatal care. Now, more and more pregnant moms are using consumer technology to monitor and keep track of their pregnancy.

Sound systems for the belly

While there’s no definitive conclusion as to whether playing music or other types of sound has any profound effect on the baby’s development, there are a growing number of baby-bump sound systems on the market. Pregnant moms can now use gadgets such as BellyBuds to play music or even voice recordings to their baby in-utero. All you have to do is adhere the discrete BellyBuds speakers to your belly, and then you can start playing music to your baby wherever you go.

Listening to your baby’s heartbeat

To enjoy the special moment of listening to your baby’s heartbeat in the comfort of your own home, you may want to consider a device like Shell by Bellabeat. This pregnancy technology gadget screens out noise and amplifies the sound of the baby in-utero for those listening in. Additionally, users can record and share their baby’s heartbeat to their friends and family.

Caring for the newborn with post-pregnancy technology

Caring for a newborn can be stressful, and new parents need all the help they can get. From smart clothing to smart pacifiers, let’s look at some of the most revolutionary post-pregnancy technology that are helping new parents look after their newborn child.

Monitoring your baby’s sleep

Monitoring your baby’s sleep to track patterns and changes can ensure that everyone, including the baby and the caregiver, gets quality sleep. With Mimo, a onesie attached to a wearable sensor, you can monitor the baby’s body position, skin temperature and breathing in real-time, as well as see if they’re awake or asleep through its dedicated app.

Taking your baby’s temperature with smart pacifiers

Newborns have weaker immune systems than adults, so it’s important to track and monitor your baby’s temperature on a regular basis. However, it can be tricky to track your baby’s temperature frequently, especially when they’re sleeping. This is where devices like smart pacifiers can help.

Pacif-i is a bluetooth low energy pacifier that continuously monitors your baby’s temperature. Acting as both a pacifier and a smart thermometer, you can receive temperature readings via its dedicated app without disturbing your baby, even when you’re in a different room.

Don’t forget to secure maternity insurance

While pregnancy technology gadgets are indeed revolutionizing the maternity experience and making things a lot easier for tech-savvy parents and parents-to-be, it’s important not to overlook maternity insurance. Private healthcare can be incredibly expensive in China, which is why we advise moms-to-be to obtain maternity insurance early enough on their policy.

The thing to be aware of with maternity insurance is that in most cases it comes with a waiting period of 10 – 12 months. With this in mind, if you’re planning to start a new family, you will need to secure maternity insurance before you conceive if you want to ensure that your maternity costs are covered.

Got any more questions regarding maternity insurance or health insurance in general? Be sure to get in touch with the experts at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, Maternity Insurance
Avoid these 5 common corporate health insurance mistakes

Avoid these 5 common corporate health insurance mistakes

In China, as in many other countries, attracting and retaining the best employees can provide companies with an edge over their competitors. While there are many different tactics you can employ to ensure that your staff are the best, there is one that is increasingly in demand by almost all employees: company-sponsored health insurance plans. Having a company health plan can bring a variety of benefits, most notably increased productivity and decreased sick leave, both of which directly impact a company’s bottom line. However, if the plan is not implemented correctly there could be a negative impact on your Return on Investment. If you are looking to avoid this when you implement your plan here are five common corporate health insurance mistakes you should avoid.

Mistake #1: Not implementing the right coverage

Sure, this might seem like it’s pretty obvious: Not selecting the right coverage will inevitably result in poor plan performance and poor satisfaction with the plan. But the problem is, it is easier said than done to select the best plan for your employees. There are a huge number of factors involved in corporate health insurance, factors that all need to be considered and addressed in order to not only identify but also implement coverage.

In short, a lot can go wrong and while a lot can be done to avoid this mistake there is one thing that is absolutely important that you get right: the type of insurance coverage you secure.

In China, there are two types of private health insurance plans available to secure:

  • Local health insurance plans – Plans designed to provide cover of healthcare in China only.
  • International health insurance plans – Plans designed to provide cover not only in China but also worldwide.

The core concept of these two types of plans is similar: They provide coverage of most health care employees will pursue. It is important to note here that these plans are on top of the social insurance scheme that all employers and employees need to pay into.

The major difference between the plans is not only in the area they cover, but the fact that international health insurance plans tend to have higher coverage limits which allow employees to seek care at more expensive and higher quality private medical facilities.

From our experience, the major mistake made by companies here is that they don’t select the right level of coverage for their employees. For example, if you have employees who travel frequently for work a local health insurance plan will not cover them outside of China. If they get sick, they will have to pay for care out of their own pocket. It would be better to secure them international coverage.

Mistake #2: Assuming your plan covers pre-existing conditions

This is a common corporate health insurance mistake made by companies all over the world as historically, group plans have included what insurers refer to as a ‘Medical History Disregard’ or MHD. This clause means that insurers will not consider a person’s existing medical conditions when they join the plan. In other words, your pre-existing conditions are covered.

This is different from individual plans which normally do not cover pre-existing conditions. The mistake here however, is assuming that the MHD is automatically included in any group health insurance plan.

The truth here is that many insurers will usually only consider adding MHD to group plans that cover over a certain number of people, usually between 10 and 20. So, if you are selecting a group plan for say nine of your employees, you should carefully read the plan details provided by the insurer or ask your broker about MHD and whether it is covered.

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate with the insurer to have it added to your plan, but it might come with a higher premium.  

Mistake #3: Not understanding the eligibility requirements of the plan

Health insurers who offer corporate health insurance plans often include what’s called compulsory membership. This clause states that all employees of the same level must be added to the plan.

For example, if you implement a plan with local coverage for your middle managers then all middle managers will be required by the insurer to join the plan.

The mistake companies often make here is that they don’t fully understand how this clause works or that it is actually included in the plan.

To avoid this, it is important that you read the plan documentation and ask the insurer whether this clause is included and how it works as some insurers will define it differently. Beyond that, in many cases you might be able to actually negotiate with the insurer over this clause. For example, if they say that all employees must be covered you might be able to negotiate so that only employees at a certain level need to join the plan.

Mistake #4: Leaving employees out of the selection process

One of the key success factors of any group health insurance plan is whether your employees feel it is valuable and will use it. The mistake here is that companies don’t involve the employees when selecting a plan and ultimately implement a plan that is not used by staff, or doesn’t meet their needs.

If a plan is not utilized, you are essentially throwing good money after bad and could actually end up losing money. To avoid this, it is a good idea to discuss with employees about what they want in terms of coverage and what they need. From there you can set expectations and look for plans that meet the majority of their needs.

Mistake #5: Going with the cheapest option

These days, businesses often operate on increasingly thin margins and when managers go to implement a health insurance plan there might be a bit of sticker shock around the actual up-front cost. This can often lead to businesses going with the cheapest option available.

Businesses that have pursued this strategy have often found that it ends up costing them more in the long run. For example, cheaper plans might have lower levels of service meaning that if there are claims issues or concerns you might need to spend a fair amount of time dealing with them instead of focusing on more important things like running your business.

What’s more, plans that are cheap now might see a massive jump in premium in the near future as insurers realize that they don’t have enough premiums available to cover claims. You could quickly find that your cheap plan is now the most expensive option.

How can I avoid these corporate health insurance mistakes?

One of the best ways to ensure that you find the right corporate health insurance plan for your employees and your company is to work with a broker like Pacific Prime China. Our team of dedicated corporate advisors can help you identify your insurance needs and then select, implement, and even manage a solution that works for your business.

To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.

Posted by rmcbroom in Group Health Insurance
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