Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China

Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China blog article

It can be daunting having a baby away from your home country, especially when considering that the Chinese healthcare system is likely very different from what you’re used to back home. There are a number of things you’ll need to consider in ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible in China, one of the major considerations being that you have access to modern facilities so that you are able to receive quality prenatal care prior to giving birth. The good news is that the quality of healthcare in China is improving at a rapid rate, especially after foreign entities have been allowed to invest in private hospitals since 2012.

This article sheds light on what you need to know about hospitals in China, and offers a number of tips on ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Healthcare facilities in China

An essential aspect of maintaining a healthy pregnancy is ensuring that you have access to quality medical services during the whole course of your pregnancy. Usually, in the beginning stages of your pregnancy you would expect scans and consultations with an ob/gyn every 4 to 6 weeks, and then increase the frequency of your visits to once every week or once every 2 weeks closer to your delivery date.

Public hospitals

Most cities in China will have direct access to a range of public hospitals. While public hospitals charge much cheaper fees than private hospitals, the quality of service and cleanliness levels in these facilities vary greatly, and the imposing language barrier and long waiting times tend to dissuade the majority of expats from seeking public medical care.

Private and international hospitals

Most expats living in tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai will benefit from the wide selection of Western-style private clinics available. Private facilities offer a number of perks such as much shorter waiting times, quality of care that is on par with Western standards, and English-speaking medical staff.

It’s important to note that the fees charged in these facilities are significantly more expensive than the prices in public hospitals – expect to pay around CNY 4,000 for an ultrasound, and up to CNY 100,000 for a C-section delivery package!

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

You may also want to consider seeking Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment. Traditional Chinese practices such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine are very popular among Chinese women – they are considered safe practices and are also quite effective in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and alleviating a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as fatigue and nausea.

For example, acupuncture is often used to manage pain and prepare the uterus and cervix for birth. There are also a plethora of TCM treatments available that help promote the health and development of the fetus.

Maintaining a healthy diet during your pregnancy

In order to ensure that you and your baby are receiving all the nutrients needed, it’s important that you consume foods that are rich with folic acid, iron, calcium, protein, and other important vitamins and minerals.

Moms-to-be are advised to add around 300 calories on top of their normal recommended daily intake during the second trimester of their pregnancy, and increase this to 500 calories during your third trimester.

Recommended foods include fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and whole grains. It’s best to avoid caffeine and highly advised to stay away from alcohol, as drinking alcohol during your pregnancy may lead to a number of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Try to reduce your exposure to pollution

As mentioned in last month’s article on reducing the harmful health risks of air pollution in China, certain groups of people are more susceptible to the harmful health effects of pollution, and that includes pregnant women. Recent research has linked prenatal exposure to ambient levels of air pollution with an increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality, mainly due to its harmful cardiovascular and respiratory effects on both the mother and the newborn.

Major cities in China are known for its toxic levels of air pollution, so if you’re planning to stay in China during your pregnancy, it’s highly important that you try to reduce your exposure to pollution by staying indoors and away from heavily trafficked roads when your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches the high health risk category. You can check your area’s real-time AQI here.

Securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy

Moms-to-be are highly advised to secure maternity insurance to offset the high cost of pregnancy in China. The importance of securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy cannot be stressed enough. The reason for this is because maternity benefits are attached with a waiting period usually lasting 10-12 months, so you’ll need to plan ahead before starting a family if you want to ensure that your maternity costs are covered.

If you’re already pregnant and would like coverage for your newborn, you may still be able to secure a New Born Child benefit as this will usually have a shorter waiting period – some as short as 6 months.

If you’ve got any further questions regarding maternity insurance or would like some insurance or maternity-related advice, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts (and moms!) at Pacific Prime China today.

Looking at medical insurance inflation in China

As we reported last week, we have released our latest report on international private medical insurance inflation (IPMI). The report is available as a free download now from our website here. As we mentioned in the last article, IPMI premiums in China inflated by an average of 12.06% in 2016, up from 9.50% in 2015. In this article, we take a look at how China compares regionally when it comes to medical inflation and some China-specific drivers behind the increased inflation.

 

Medical insurance inflation in China compared with Asia

From the chart below we can see that IPMI plans in Asia saw an average inflation of 9.90% in 2016, which was slightly higher than the global average of 9.22%. This is intriguing in that it could indicate an emerging trend where inflation in Asia will track higher than globally.

For 2016 however, China was not actually the location with the highest health insurance inflation, that honor went to Hong Kong which saw premiums inflate by an average of 13.03%. This would put China as having the second highest average inflation figure of the countries included in the report. The third highest is Singapore, which saw an average inflation of 11.18% in 2016.

China’s location as the country with the 2nd highest average medical insurance inflation is not overly surprising, especially when you look at our Cost of Health Insurance 2016 report which found that China was the third most expensive country for health insurance out of 95 countries.

 

Breaking China’s inflation down by insurer

Aside from presenting the average inflation figure for the country, this report also presents the average inflation by insurer.

As you can see from the graph above, inflation in China ran anywhere from 6.62% to 31.21%. As with the global ranking of insurers: Allianz Worldwide Care, AXA PPP Healthcare, Bupa Global, and William Russell are all among the providers with the lowest inflation.

One thing to note here is that IntegraGlobal’s 31.21% increase is not reflective of the premiums they charge – they are not charging the highest premiums in China. Rather, their inflation figure shows an adjustment to market rates, putting their plans about on par with the other providers in the country.

 

Country specific IPMI inflation drivers

In the report, there are 7 drivers of IPMI inflation identified as having an impact on a global scale:

  • New medical technology
  • An imbalance of healthcare resources
  • Increased compensation for healthcare professionals
  • Healthcare overutilization
  • Unstable economies
  • Changing population dynamics
  • The increasing availability of technology

Insurance in China, especially health insurance, has certainly been affected one way or another by the above drivers, especially unstable economies, changing population dynamics, and imbalance of healthcare resources. Of the above drivers one of the most influential is changing population dynamics.

Everyone who has lived in, or followed China’s rise to prominence has seen a drastic shift in population wealth. According to an article from Business Insider in 2015, China has the largest number of millionaires in the world, with the number expected to grow in the near future. Beyond that, China also has the largest middle class in the world. What this has equated to is a larger number of people with spending money.

As such, people in China are increasingly demanding better products including better health care, with an ever increasing number of high net worth (HNW) individuals seeking care from private hospitals. This increase in demand has seen the number of private hospitals boom in the country, and with it have come higher prices. To offset this, local HNWs have been increasingly turning to international health insurance as a way to offset the costs.

Pacific Prime’s China office has certainly seen an increase in the number of local HNWs securing coverage and submitting claims. This, in turn, leads to higher costs for care and therefore higher premiums.

Interestingly. It is well known that the number of HNW expats in China is decreasing. This should lead to a decrease in demand for IPMI, but the opposite is happening. The higher concentration of HNW local citizens demanding coverage is looking to eventually eclipse demand for coverage in China and therefore continue to drive an increase in inflation figures.  

While increasing demand and changing demographics is certainly not the only factor driving IPMI inflation, it is highly likely that it is one of the most important, especially for China. In the future, it would be entirely possible to see inflation continue to increase, and could possibly remain higher than the global average.

To learn more about IPMI inflation, the other drivers, and how the other countries are ranked get your FREE copy of the International Private Medical Insurance Inflation – 2017 report on our website now.  

China featured in 2017 International Private Medical Insurance inflation report

Pacific Prime 2017 IPMI inflation report image

Pacific Prime China is excited to announce that our global partner Pacific Prime has released the 2017 annual edition of the International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) inflation report, which reveals the overall 2016 global premium inflation rate and presents analysis on premium prices charged by top IPMI plans offered by leading insurance providers in 10 key locations around the world. These countries are categorized into the following regions: Southeast Asia, Middle East, and Rest of World.

Presented in an easy to read format, this report is highly recommended for anyone interested in looking at how much they’re paying for IPMI, and should also be of high interest for insurers looking for information on premium prices in the various regions.

This article presents an overview of the findings from the latest IPMI inflation report. To access the report, click here for the website version, or click here to download your FREE PDF copy.

Key findings on global IPMI inflation

Pacific Prime’s report reveals that the average global IPMI inflation rate in 2016 was 9.2% – the exact same as the inflation rate in 2015. As shown in the graph below, the inflation rates observed in 2015 and 2016 have significantly increased from the 2014 inflation figure of 7.1%. The inflation rate in 2015 was around 5 percentage points higher than the average Consumer Price (CP) inflation rate in the countries included in this report – this remained consistent in 2016.

IPMI inflation in China

China has seen an increase in demand for quality healthcare services from the middle classes and an improved perception of health insurance. The average IPMI inflation figure in China hiked up to 12.06% in 2016 – 2.86% higher than the average global IPMI inflation rate, and a significant increase from China’s 2015 inflation rate of 9.5%. The trends impacting IPMI inflation in China include the maturing insurance market and growing government health regulations.

Key IPMI inflation drivers

As with the previous reports, the following 4 long term inflation drivers continue to make up a strong part of the explanation behind IPMI inflation:

  • New medical technology: The high costs of new medical technology research are usually passed onto patients by increasing healthcare fees, subsequently leading to inflating premium prices.
  • An imbalance of healthcare resources: Due to a range of factors including the ageing population, the imbalance of supply and demand for healthcare resources continues to increase – insurers cover the risks posed from growing demand by inflating premiums.
  • Increased compensation for healthcare professionals: The rising salaries of medical professionals are covered by rising healthcare costs, thus leading to the rise in premium prices.
  • Healthcare overutilization: There’s a growing trend towards the introduction of state-provided mandatory insurance in various regions, such as in the UAE. This has led to an increased strain on healthcare and an increase in the number of claims submitted, and insurers are responding to this by hiking up premiums.

The 2017 IPMI report has also identified 3 newly emerged trends driving premium inflation:

  • Global economic uncertainty: Global, regional, and domestic pressures have had an impact on the low economic growth observed in the countries included in this report, all of which influence IPMI through flow on effects. For example, China has experienced a growing resistance to foreign expat workers as GDP slows.
  • Changing population dynamics: The report has identified an expat “exodus” in some of the most popular expat locations, such as in Singapore and the UAE. Despite slowly dwindling expat numbers in certain regions, there’s an observable growth in demand for IPMI from increasingly wealthy local populations and high networth individuals (HNW).
  • Increasing availability of technology: Although technology has not yet had a significant impact on IPMI, Pacific Prime predicts this IPMI inflation driver will increase in force in the foreseeable future. For example, as the use of big data continues to become increasingly sophisticated, the management of insurance premium inflation may see an improvement in the years to come.

For a more in-depth analysis on the 2017 IPMI inflation report findings, you can view it here and download it for FREE here. If you’d like to have a chat with us, feel free to contact us today and one of our insurance advisors will be in touch shortly.

Insurance options for kids going to school overseas

Desk to showcase a student's insurance options

If you are planning on sending your child overseas for education, you undoubtedly already know there are a number of things to consider. One such thing to consider is your child will need health insurance. Here, we take a look at the common solutions available to parents whose children will be traveling abroad.

 

Common insurance solutions for students studying abroad

When going abroad for work or study there are usually a number of health insurance solutions available for people to consider. Here is an overview of the 3 most common types of health insurance secured by students studying abroad.

Travel insurance

These plans are designed to provide emergency medical cover to people while they are outside of their own country. Generally speaking, most travel insurance plans are a set period in length, usually providing cover for either individual trips of up to a set number of days or numerous trips of a set length (usually less than 30-60 days) over one year.  

Travel insurance plans are popular for students studying abroad not only because they offer medical coverage but they also cover other travel related incidents such as flight delays, lost luggage, and even emergency medical evacuation back to your home country.

The one thing to be aware of with these plans is that they are not designed to provide elective medical care while overseas, rather they are designed for medical emergencies and provide just enough coverage to see you well enough to return to your home country. If you plan on going to the doctor while studying abroad, the visit likely will not be covered by this plan.

Health insurance from a local provider

Almost every country popular with students will offer some form of local insurance. These plans are designed to provide citizens and residents of these countries with adequate health insurance coverage in that country only.

Generally speaking, there are two types of local insurance available in most countries:

  • Local plan offered by a private insurer – These are plans designed and sold for and to local markets by insurers who have licenses to operate within that country.
  • Coverage provided by the government – These are plans or coverage offered by the local government.

As mentioned above, local health insurance plans are designed to provide adequate coverage for most residents. In most cases, people with these plans will be visiting the public health sector which in many countries is subsidized by the government. As such, you will usually find that these plans have relatively low levels of coverage, or have limits placed on the amount you can claim for care.    

It should also be noted here that while many countries have health care or health insurance sponsored by the government, there are usually strict requirements as to who is eligible for this type of care. A good example of this would be Singapore with their Medisave program. Permanent residents and citizens of Singapore pay a percentage of their monthly income into a savings account that can then be used to cover the cost of healthcare for themselves and their family.

This savings account is not available for foreigners, which means their children would also not be able to benefit from the offsetting. If they were to get sick, they would need to pay the full cost to see a doctor.

Another example of this would be in Canada where all citizens and many residents have access to provincial health care, and students are required to have health insurance. The issue is, in some provinces, foreigners are not eligible for provincial insurance. This means that you will need to secure a plan from a private insurer.  

Health insurance from an international provider

The other common option for students going abroad is an international health insurance plan. These plans, offered by the global or international branches of major insurers, provide worldwide coverage. In other words, your child will be covered in your home country, the country they study in, and any country they may visit while overseas.

International health insurance plans are also designed to offer high coverage limits which means you can visit nearly any medical center and receive quality health care. These plans are popular with many expat families and companies who send their employees overseas as they afford the policyholder the ability to visit top quality healthcare.

The main concern many people have with these plans is that they are considerably more expensive than local or travel coverage.

 

Does my child actually need insurance while studying abroad?

This can actually be a fairly tough question to find a concrete answer to. Some schools and countries will require a valid insurance plan to be secured in order for a visa to be issued while others will simply recommend it.

For example, if your child is going to the going to school in the US, it is mandatory for some student visa holders to secure health insurance coverage that meets ACA (Affordable Care Act) requirements within the US.

One of the best pieces of advice we can offer is that it would be a good idea to contact the university or school your child will be attending. The reason for this is that some schools will actually offer coverage as part of the school fees. This is particularly common for schools in the UK, Canada, Australia, and even some in the US. These plans are usually local cover only and are affordable, however they may not be available to some students or will often have fairly strict limits and rules attached to how the plan can be used.

And of course, in many cases, it would be advised to secure a health insurance plan for your child in case they get sick and need to visit a doctor.  

 

Which health insurance plans should I purchase for my child?

In Pacific Prime China’s experience, it would be advisable to secure both a travel insurance and an international health insurance plan. The reasoning behind this is that the travel insurance plan will cover your child while they are traveling between your home country and the country their school is located in. There is always a chance that their luggage could be lost, or there will be delays while traveling (especially during the winter in the northern hemisphere) and having coverage to help offset the additional costs these bring can be a big help.

When it comes to actually living in their new country, an international health insurance plan will help cover the costs of any care needed. This is especially important in countries like Hong Kong, Canada, the UK, and the US, where the cost of health care can be prohibitively expensive if you don’t have access to the government/public health subsidies. These plans will also cover your child when they are at home and can have additional coverage elements like dental, and vision added thereby allowing your child to visit a dentist while they are at home on break.

One of the major advantages an international health insurance plan offers for children studying overseas is the fact that they will usually have emergency evacuation coverage. This means that if your child gets sick while at school you may be able to get them moved back to their home country, or a location where relatives are who can help them recover.

If you are looking for a health insurance solution that will cover your child while they are overseas, contact Pacific Prime China today. Our experts will be happy to discuss your options and help you find a plan that meets your whole family’s needs.   

5 tips for getting the most out of your health checkup in China

Getting the most out of your health checkup

The importance of maintaining good health continues to take central precedence in the Chinese government’s reforms, and this has been exemplified in the “Healthy China 2030” blueprint released in October, which sets out to improve health literacy in the country. As reported by Xinhua News, Premier Li Keqiang has announced in the Ninth Global Conference on Health Promotion that the current average life expectancy in China is 76.3, beating many middle and high income countries.

With the Healthy China initiative, China hopes to raise the average life expectancy to 79 by 2030. In ensuring that this ambitious goal is reached, the Chinese government has been distributing brochures offering health advice to the public by advocating healthy habits, chief among them being the importance of regular health checkups.

As the age-old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Undergoing regular checkups is important in helping you identify any health concerns you may have before they develop into long term chronic illnesses. With new year’s just around the corner, it’s time to include regular medical exams in your resolutions! This article by Pacific Prime China reveals how to get the most out of your health checkup.

Be prepared for your checkup

To get the most out of your checkup, there are a few things you can do before your appointment so that your doctor can better address any specific areas of concern you may have:

  • Notify your clinic/ doctor about problem areas that you’re concerned about before your appointment. By doing so, your doctor will be better prepared for your checkup beforehand and can then adjust the duration of your appointment accordingly.
  • Prepare previous health records if you’re visiting the clinic for the first time. This can help your doctor by providing key insights on your medical history.
  • Be prepared to provide information on your family’s health history. Do certain diseases run in your family? It may be a good idea to write these down, especially if it’s your first time visiting a particular clinic.
  • Think about questions you may have regarding your body. Have you noticed anything unusual, like new moles or lumps on your body? It’s worth jotting these down.
  • Prepare a list of medications that you’ve been taking – it’s important to let your doctor know what medications you are on, including non-prescription drugs like supplements. This may help reduce the chances of negative interactions between any newly introduced medications and your current medication.

Don’t forget cancer screenings

With regular cancer screenings, any abnormal cells that may turn into cancer will be detected. It may be daunting to undergo these screenings, but detecting any abnormalities as early as possible can really save your life. Here are some of the most common types of cancer screenings:

  • Mammograms to detect breast cancer.
  • Pap test (for women) to identify abnormal cells that may turn into cervical cancer.
  • Screening tests for colon cancer – this is especially important for adults above 50 years old, people with a family history of colon cancer, and people with inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Low-dose computed tomography scans to detect lung cancer. This is especially recommended for people with a history of heavy smoking.

Don’t hesitate to address any embarrassing symptoms

Some people prefer to avoid talking about embarrassing symptoms or illnesses as they consider these a social taboo, but it’s important to be as honest as possible. Doctors deal with and talk about these problem areas every day and are there to provide their professional help. If you’re feeling too uncomfortable, it might help to invite a close friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment.

Mental health is also important

With 180 million people in China suffering from psychiatric disorders, there’s a pressing need to address mental health issues in this country. If you’ve been feeling particularly stressed or unhappy, don’t forget to mention this during your checkup, as your doctor can help refer you to a relevant professional so that, if appropriate, you can proceed with therapy and other forms of treatment.

Make sure your health insurance plan covers checkups

Checkups can be expensive (especially in private and international hospitals), which is why it’s important to check if this is covered by your health insurance plan. Some plans may only cover a percentage of the cost of the checkup, and other plans may cover only basic checkups. Another thing to be aware of is your plan’s preferred network of providers. If you’re going to a clinic that is not listed under your plan’s in-network, you will likely face issues when filing claims.

If you’re unsure of what exactly is covered by your plan or would like some further information, feel free to contact us today.