Health Insurance

All the latest articles on health insurance in China.

Cost of health insurance compared around the world

Cost of health insurance compared around the world

A new report, the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017, says that the average cost of health insurance in China have decreased. Using the premiums charged by ten of the top insurers in the world, more than 100 countries are compared in the annual paper that aims to give both consumers and industry players information to make better informed decisions when it comes to their own medical coverage.

This week, Pacific Prime China discusses some of the key findings of the report, and what its information can do for you.

Inside the Cost of Health Insurance report

Now in its third year, this annual study into international insurance premiums has already been featured by Human Resources Online and on global insurer William Russell’s own site. What you can expect to see in the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017 is similar to previous years; some background on the report’s scope, a ranking section of the 20 most expensive and five least expensive areas, and an analysis section on what factors are driving prices.

In the ranking section, China features as the fourth most expensive country in the world for international insurance costs.

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%

Whilst this may look like cause for alarm for insurance consumers in China, the fact is that the country has fallen one spot since 2016. For the first time ever, Singapore has found itself with a higher average cost for international insurance. The United States and Hong Kong, however, retain their 1-and-2 spots from previous years.

This year’s report has found that many countries have seen their average premium costs hold to the same figures as 2016, while some have surprisingly seen their average costs reduced. Key to understanding the dynamics of the insurance market is understanding what might be driving the changes in the costs of insurance plans for insurers.

What’s driving prices?

Part of the analysis of the report includes a look at what factors are influencing the costs of international insurance premiums around the globe. For 2017, the primary drivers of the cost of insurance are:

  • Increased demand for international quality private care
  • Increasing cost of health care
  • Increased regulation
  • Continuing challenges related to insurance fraud

As the focus of the report is on international insurance, these points may not be as salient for locally sourced plans. That said, there is still some crossover between the drivers of insurance premiums both globally and at a country-level. Reading the report itself provides a greater discussion about what makes these drivers important for anyone thinking about the cost of health insurance.

The cost of health insurance in China

China remains in the top-tier of countries in terms of the most expensive locations for health insurance.

China

2016

China

2017

USD 10,881 USD 10,695

The country itself has been working hard in the past decade to make healthcare more affordable and guaranteeing access to modern services to every person in the country. This may be a significant factor in reducing the cost of healthcare, but it doesn’t quite explain the reduction in international insurance. One such explanation may lie in the supply and demand of insurance products in China.

In 1980, little more than 10,000 expatriates were registered as working in China. Now there are more than 900,000 and growing, meaning the demand for international insurance is on the rise. With the market being heavily regulated, those insurers who operate within China’s borders do so extremely competitively. This could mean that policy prices dropped in the past year in order for insurers to try and attract the increasing demand from arriving expats.

However, as previously mentioned, China has fallen one place on the list of most expensive locations as the average cost of international health insurance in Singapore sees the tiny nation-state jump two places to claim the third highest rank. This is in part to a slight increase in Singapore’s average cost, as well as China’s modest decrease.

Who is this report for?

The information contained in the Cost of International Health Insurance Report – 2017 will be useful for anyone interested in the insurance market. For insurers, it gives an idea of just how price competitive their international insurance plans are in various countries across the globe. For consumers, it provides a reference point for what they can expect to pay for plans in specific locations.

Whether you’re an individual, human resource executive, or business owner, this recently released report can provide handy insights to ensure that you can make the best decision possible about insurance. Another sound decision can be to engage the services of an expert insurance broker, like Pacific Prime China. Their expert team has been using market intelligence like this for almost 20 years.

For a free quote, or a chat about how our services can find you a better insurance deal, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Expat Health Insurance
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
Protecting yourself from infectious diseases in China

Protecting yourself from infectious diseases in China

According to official data revealed earlier this year, there were more than 6.9 million cases of infectious diseases reported in 2016. Of the total, infectious diseases killed over 18,000 people, with H7N9 bird flu, foot and mouth disease, infectious diarrhea, and influenza being the most prevalent causes of death. Most recent outbreaks registered in China are no more than a blip in the news, while others, like H7N9, continue to escalate fear among the whole nation as scientists speculate whether human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus is possible. Today, we look at how you can protect yourself from infectious diseases in China.

Infectious disease incidence rates

Following the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Chinese government recognized the need to rethink their “non-collaborative prevention and control approach” and improve the nation’s infectious disease surveillance. This led to the introduction of the web-based Nationwide Notifiable Infectious Diseases Reporting Information System (NIDRIS) in 2004, requiring under the Law of Prevention and Control of Infectious Disease in China that healthcare institutes across the country report 45 notifiable infectious diseases via the internet.

The data collected from the NIDRIS enabled a trend study of nearly 55 million cases of notifiable infectious diseases in China to be analyzed by researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. Looking at the incidence and mortality trends of 45 infectious diseases in the post-SARS era (between 2003 to 2013), key findings from the study include the following:

The most common infectious diseases

66 percent of all cases reported between 2003 to 2013 were:

  • Hand, foot and mouth disease: A common illness in children that causes sores in the mouth, and rashes on the hands and feet.
  • Hepatitis B: A potentially life-threatening disease that infects the liver. It is spread through contact of an infected person’s blood and body fluids (e.g. via unprotected intercourse, sharing personal items like razors, etc.)
  • Tuberculosis: Compared with other infectious diseases, tuberculosis is the second biggest killer globally, and is an airborne disease that usually affects the lungs. Symptoms can include coughing (sometimes with blood), chills, fever, night sweats, etc.

The yearly incidence of the above diseases were 114.48 per 100,000 population, 81.57 per 100,000 population, and 80.33 per 100,000 population, respectively.

The fastest growing infectious diseases

The fastest growing diseases identified by the study include:

  • Hydatid: A parasitic infection caused by the eggs of a tapeworm called Echinococcus granulosus.
  • Hepatitis C: Primarily spread through blood-to-blood contact (e.g. from poorly sanitized medical equipment), Hepatitis C is a virus that primarily affects the liver.
  • Syphilis: A sexually transmitted disease that, if left untreated, can cause severe long-term health complications like arthritis, brain damage, and blindness.
  • HIV: Primarily spread through unprotected intercourse, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

The above diseases were found to increase at an average rate of 24%, 19.2%, 16.3%, and 16.3% per year between 2004 to 2013, respectively.

The rising threat of infectious disease

Researchers from the study identified that certain factors have contributed to the rising threat of infectious disease in China, including increasing antimicrobial (i.e. antibiotics, antimalarials) resistance, changing demographics and behaviours, as well as increased travel. For instance, more and more people in China are moving from rural areas to cities in search of better work opportunities. This rise in mobility is believed to have a large role to play in promoting the transmission of diseases from rural to urban areas.

Protecting yourself and your family

Some infectious diseases can be severe and even life-threatening, so it is important to maintain healthy habits so that you can protect yourself from disease and prevent it from spreading. Here are a few key tips to consider:

Wash your hands often

Handwashing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from infection. Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap before eating food, after using the toilet, after contact with a sick person, and after coughing or sneezing. For those times when soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer instead.

Avoid touching wild animals

Wild animals sometimes carry diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, such as avian flu and rabies, so try to avoid touching them. If you are bitten, it’s best to seek medical attention straight away.

Don’t share personal items

Sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors, earrings, and nail clippers are an instant no-no. Infections can be passed along toothbrush bristles, viruses can be left behind on razor blades, earrings can carry viruses from the previous wearer, and all sorts of fungus, bacteria, and viruses can be exchanged from nail cutting tools.

Keep up-to-date with all vaccinations

Vaccines can help prevent many infectious diseases, and have helped control a number of diseases that were once common around the world (e.g. polio). According to the WHO, vaccines prevented at least 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015. To learn more about vaccinations, visit our article on vaccinations and health insurance here.

Having the right health insurance plan

Having the right health insurance plan will ensure that, should you require medical treatment from contracting an infectious disease, you can access the best healthcare facilities in the country without worrying about your medical bills. While in most cases a vast number of infectious diseases will be covered provided that it’s not a pre-existing condition, there may be several stipulations in your policy concerning such diseases. For instance, some plans (usually the cheaper ones) may exclude coverage of epidemic diseases (like the Zika virus). Sexually transmitted diseases are also often listed as an exclusion in plans.

As such, it often pays to speak to an experienced insurance broker like Pacific Prime China, who will be able to sift through the hundreds and thousands of health insurance plans on the market to find the best fitting policy for your specific needs. To learn more about your options, or to get a free quote, contact us today.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
Hospital costs rising are causing elderly concern in Beijing

Hospital costs rising are causing elderly concern in Beijing

Recent reforms have caused quite a stir in Beijing following municipal officials introducing new rules on hospital billing. The changes were introduced to head off potentially exploitative hospital costs in the capital, yet public response to the changes has been somewhat chaotic. Is the reaction justified, or simply a misunderstanding? This week, Pacific Prime China looks at the elderly reaction to rising hospital costs in Beijing.

New reforms for Beijing hospitals and patients

Concerns over potential price-gouging were the catalyst for the health sector reform, with changes being introduced to help lower patient costs and reduce incentives for medical providers looking to make unjust margins on fees and products. From April 8, public hospitals were barred from marking up prescription drug prices and imposing consultation fees on patients, requiring the charging of tier of single medical fees:

Top-tier hospitals Second-tier hospitals Community hospitals
RMB 50 RMB 30 RMB 50

Before that, Chinese patients were being played by doctors cutting deals with drug companies for kickbacks. In fact, a Shanghai urologist was found to have prescribed patients for a specific company’s drugs solely for the fact that they stood to earn a new iPhone 6 device for their troubles. The investigation, by state-broadcaster CCTV, found that some doctors were receiving cuts of up to 40% of the medication price.

Out of pocket expenses have been on the rise for patients in China, with people paying RMB 965.5 billion in 2012 (up from only RMB 587.6 billion in 2008). Considering the soaring prices and the public discontent it was fueling, the April changes were introduced to ensure that patients wouldn’t get saddled with extortionate prices fueled by pushy drug companies, while ensuring hospitals could still set reasonable prices.

Older generation concerns for Beijing hospital costs

With news spreading that hospitals would be introducing new fixed tier costs, the public found misinformed sources quoting as high as a quintupled fee for seeing a top-tier hospital. Understandably, many Beijing residents swarmed hospitals around the city in order to stock up on prescriptions, particularly elderly residents. These older patients were waiting in line for hours in order to purchase annual supplies of drugs before the April 8 deadline.

The unfortunate fact was that, while it was true that top-tier hospital visits had jumped from RMB 7 to RMB 50, many of these people would pay a lot more in out-of-pocket prescription fees than they would have paying the difference in hospital costs after April 8. Even a second-tier hospital user paying RMB 30 instead of RMB 3 would have been better off, with one woman’s prescription dropping from RMB 280 to RMB 193 because of the reforms.

Elimination of the 15% markup on many drugs around Beijing had saved patients around RMB 420 million, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning. The introduction of the tiered pay system also saw a significant drop in hospital overcrowding across all three levels of the public hospital sector, as high as 15.1% in top-tier facilities.

Still, the example suggests that more could have been done to ensure sectors of society that need support with hospital costs the most, such as the elderly, better understood the policy changes and could make more informed decisions about their care.

China moves to better support private care for the elderly

The good news is that the Chinese Government looks proactive in supporting high standard eldercare for the older generation. With the 13th Five Year Plan planning to cut government-run nursing home beds to no more than 50% of the total, policy initiatives to ease rules and red tape for private carers as well as providing land supply and better taxation and subsidies indicates that it has better support of the elderly in its sights.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission will also start building an improved smart health and elderly care industry through the introduction of more than 100 industrial leading enterprises and a number of brands by 2020. China is set to have more than 100 model bases set in the next four years that will expand universal access to health management services and home-based elderly care country-wide.

With a rapidly ageing population in China, it’s important that people understand the need to secure good, comprehensive insurance to guarantee quality of life right through your retirement years.

Pacific Prime China: your first choice for insuring your family

If you have an elderly family member that you’ve not got health insurance for yet, give the team at Pacific Prime China a call. Their expert advisors have been connecting families and individuals with robust and comprehensive medical coverage in China for almost 20 years. Getting the right plan not only provides financial support for meeting any and all China hospital costs, but can also give you access to higher quality private institutions as well.

For a free quote or some friendly advice, contact Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Health Insurance
Family health insurance in China: 10 tips on getting the right plan

Family health insurance in China: 10 tips on getting the right plan

Protecting the health and wellbeing of your family with the right family health insurance plan will give you all much-needed peace of mind and financial security should any unexpected illnesses occur. Those looking for a family plan will quickly discover that there’s no such thing as a one-version-fits-all health insurance policy, as the right coverage will depend on your family’s needs. To help, we’re going to cover the following 10 most important things to consider when it comes to securing the right health insurance plan for your family.

1. Choosing the right level of coverage for your needs

When finding a family health insurance plan in China, one of the most important things you will need to make a decision on is your family’s required level of coverage. Coverage levels vary significantly between different insurers and plans; Some plans will only cover basic hospitalization fees, whereas more comprehensive plans will cover GP visits, checkups, vaccinations, maternity, etc. Below are the three main levels of coverage:

Inpatient only

Typically speaking, inpatient plans cover any treatment that the patient is admitted to hospital for, i.e. treatments that involve a stay at the hospital. This includes coverage for expenses like surgery charges, ambulance, operating theater fees, anesthetist charges, etc. Inpatient plans from reputable insurers will tend to also include cover for emergency evacuation, cancer coverage, emergency cases of chronic conditions, etc. When securing health insurance for your family, we advise that you at least get inpatient coverage, as these treatments can be extremely expensive in China.

Inpatient and outpatient

The outpatient benefit is an optional addition to inpatient coverage, and covers medical treatment that does not require hospitalization, eg. day to day doctors, specialist visits, and prescription medication. Sometimes outpatient coverage will also include physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment, e.g. acupuncture.

Full coverage

For more comprehensive coverage, there’s also the option to include extra add-on benefits in your plan for maximum protection. These add-ons, often referred to by insurers as “riders”, include options such as maternity, vision, and dental coverage.

Know this about maternity insurance

For those thinking of welcoming a new addition to their family, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to plan for the future and secure maternity insurance well ahead of conception. This is because maternity plans tend to come with a waiting period of around 10 to 12 months (and sometimes even longer), meaning that you’ll need to wait that period of time before you can receive any reimbursements on claims made against that benefit.

2. Deductible and copayment options

Cost sharing options such as introducing a deductible or a copayment to your plan can be a great way to get a discount on your premium.

A deductible is the amount of money you must pay first, either on an ‘annual, per person’ basis or an ‘annual, per medical condition, per person basis’, before your insurer pays anything. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the deductible, the lower your premium will be – and vice versa. It is often advised that people choose to have a higher deductible on their inpatient coverage and a lower one on their outpatient treatment (if applicable), as it is much more likely that you and your family will be using the outpatient benefit.

On the other hand, a copayment is the amount you pay each time you submit a claim after the deductible has been met. As with deductibles, introducing a copayment to your plan can help reduce your premiums, but it can be risky for those of you on a tighter budget, especially if you have a large number of doctor visits in a year.

3. What you need to know about ‘High Cost Providers’

Hospital costs vary significantly in China, with some hospitals charging very affordable fees, and other more well-known private hospitals in major cities with English speaking doctors generally charging a lot more for care. These more expensive facilities are referred to by insurers as ‘High Cost Provider’s (HCPs).

Some plans will give you the option of excluding or limiting coverage at HCPs, e.g. a 20% copayment on treatments received at HCPs, which would mean your insurer would pay only 80% of the cost. This can be a great way to reduce your premium, but please bear in mind that making a copayment of 20% at HCPs can still be very expensive, especially for an inpatient procedure.

4. Area of coverage

Are you looking for family health insurance that covers you in China only, or one that covers you overseas as well, including your home country? In terms of the area of coverage, we would recommend expats living in mainland China to obtain a plan that covers both China and Hong Kong, at the very least. This is because Hong Kong has some of the best hospitals in the whole of Asia.

On the other hand, you may also want to consider an international health insurance plan. Covering your family both in China and overseas, these plans are globally portable, meaning that if you relocate to another country in the future, or return to your home country, your plan will protect you wherever you go.

Does international health insurance include USA coverage?

Most international health insurance plans will exclude the US as an area of coverage, mostly because of the high cost of healthcare in the US. If you wish to have USA coverage, you may do so by:

  • Choosing a plan that covers elective treatment in the US, if you can afford it. This option allows your family to travel to the US for planned surgery. That being said, this option is very expensive, and can cost 1.5 times or more than the cost of a worldwide plan that excludes the USA.
  • Opt for emergency USA inpatient coverage – this will ensure your inpatient emergency costs are covered, but your outpatient emergency costs won’t be covered.
  • Another option is to purchase a comprehensive annual travel insurance plan that covers you anywhere up to 30 days outside of China. These plans are a cheap option for short term travelling, although they do not offer the tax receipt that most companies will require for reimbursement in China, so this may need to be paid for out of pocket.

5. Do you or your family members have any pre-existing conditions?

Do you or your family members already have, or previously had any illnesses, ailments, or injuries? These are considered pre-existing conditions, and you’ll often see it excluded in health insurance plans. That said, some insurers will cover certain pre-existing conditions. They may cover these conditions by either placing an additional premium on your plan, while others will offer the option of placing a waiting period on that particular condition.

If you are lucky, in some cases these conditions may even be covered at no extra cost. To ensure you get the pre-existing condition coverage you need, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced broker like Pacific Prime China for more information.

6. Can I get an individual health insurance plan for my child?

If you’re looking to secure separate health insurance coverage for your child instead of obtaining family health insurance, you may do so. However, please bear in that mind that almost all insurers will not offer this option. That said, there are ‘child alone’ options available, with some costing only RMB 9,000 annually.

7. Is the insurer reliable?

When purchasing health insurance, it’s also important to consider the reputation, service, and reliability of the insurer. Generally speaking, the cheaper the insurance plan, the less reliable on claims they are. This is why it’s so important to choose a reputable insurance company, so that you can have an insurance plan that you and your family can count on.

8. How often do you want to pay for your family health insurance?

Most insurers in China require annual payment, but some will allow you to make semi-annual or sometimes even monthly payments. However, the latter options will carry a surcharge. Another thing to be aware of is that Chinese regulations will not accept international credit cards for monthly payments.

9. Will there be annual premium increases?

When it comes to renewing your family health insurance plan for the following year, it’s important to know that paying increased premiums is inevitable. As a general rule of thumb, smaller insurers with less financial stability will have less stable, more erratic increases, whereas large reputable insurers will tend to have more gradual premium increases (based on medical inflation, age increase, etc).

10. Consult an experienced broker

Some people believe that insurance intermediaries charge higher premiums for insurance. The truth is, reputable insurers like Pacific Prime China offer the same rates as the insurers we work with. Not only will you be getting the same rates, but you will also benefit from extra services such as our expertise in finding the best plan for your needs, as well as additional help on your renewals and claims submissions.

For more information on finding the best family health insurance plan, be sure to contact us today for impartial advice, as well as a free quote.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance