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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
Patented Western drug prices slashed by Chinese Government

Patented Western drug prices slashed by Chinese Government

In a move to make medicine accessible to more people, the Chinese Government has reached agreements with dozens of top drugs from multinationals such as AstraZeneca, GSK, and Roche to slash drug prices. This week, Pacific Prime China discusses just how big of a change this might be, and what it will mean for people living in China. 

The new cost of medication in China

As the second-largest market for medication, China is set to take advantage of significant discounts to some of the pharmaceutical industry’s most expensive and specialized medication. Multinational pharmaceutical companies have cut the price of some of their drugs by as much as 70% in order to make them eligible for co-payment under the Chinese Government’s National Reimbursement Drugs List.

Drug prices have been on the government’s to-do list since as early as 2014, where it indicated it was preparing to increase the level of funding it provided for public healthcare. 45 expensive medicines were already added to the NRDL in February this year, and included significant cost savings such as:

  • GSK’s hepatitis drug Viread fell from RMB 1,500 to 490 a month
  • AstraZeneca’s lung cancer pill Iressa reduced from RMB 15,000 to 7,000 a month
  • Local Chinese company Betta Pharmaceuticals’ lung cancer drug Icotinib dropped from RMB 12,000 to 5,500 a month

With medication like Bayer’s liver and kidney cancer treatment Sorafenib set to join the NRDL, people across China with serious illnesses will be able to access some of the world’s top drugs for less than they would cost in neighbouring countries.

Benefitting from China’s new drug prices

The ones who stand to gain the most from the new medication costs are local Chinese citizens. As they’re eligible for the Chinese Government’s social security support, the lower drug prices mean purchasing these NRDL drugs using their individual social security fund won’t cost them as much as it might have when pharmaceutical companies charged full price. This is great news for citizens of lower incomes who can now get the government co-pay for drugs previously well out of their price range.

Foreigners and expatriates, who are excluded from accessing national social security, still benefit from the reduction of drug prices by the government and pharmaceutical companies. Obviously, there’s no co-payment to help pay for the reduced costs but, as seen above, the price drops are still considerable, and make medication market in China extremely competitive with costs seen elsewhere. Granted, a year long course of Iressa will still cost RMB 84,000, so it’s still worth securing private health insurance to provide financial support should you need it.

Do health insurance plans cover the cost of medication?

The answer is both yes and no. Illnesses such as cancer will generally have a separate benefit schedule to things like inpatient or outpatient care, meaning any cancer-related drugs prescribed to you will likely be covered under that part of your policy. The same goes for any medications required due to an inpatient visit, for example if you break your leg or are admitted with gastroenteritis.

What you need to be aware of is that policies differ on how much and how long they’ll cover drugs for. This is where it pays to have read and understood your insurance policy in full. Some plans may have an approved drug list called a “formulary”, meaning they only pay for certain types or brands of drugs, whilst others may have a limit on how much they’ll pay for medication. Each plan is different, so make sure you know what yours covers.

What if my health coverage isn’t adequate enough?

Maybe you have an existing private health insurance plan, maybe your employer has provided you with one as part of your employment package. Perhaps you don’t even have health insurance at all. One of the worst situations you can find yourself in when faced with dealing with a medical illness is not being financially prepared for the cost of treatment, and not having adequate health insurance coverage.

At Pacific Prime China, we’re experts at matching robust insurance coverage with your personal health needs. We can negotiate better benefits and limits at great prices for new and existing clients, provide comprehensive top-up plans for those looking to boost their employer-provided insurance, and we can even find coverage for your family, small business, or large professional service firm. Our point of difference as a broker? We’ll stay and support you throughout the life of your policy too, helping out with claims and at renewal time.

Find out why we’re one of Asia’s leading insurance brokers. For a free quote or some friendly, expert advice, contact the team at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Luther in News
Are you ready to make a difference? Pacific Prime China is seeking new Consultants

Are you ready to make a difference? Pacific Prime China is seeking new Consultants

If you’ve been looking out for the next big step in your career or a fresh and exciting new opportunity, Pacific Prime China’s new roles might be just the fit for you.

We’re a fast-expanding employee benefits and insurance brokerage firm in China, and part of a global group of companies under the Pacific Prime banner. As a leading insurance expert in Asia, we’ve built a strong reputation of simplifying insurance with clients and industry partners. Our teams of more than 400 across five offices represent 26 different nationalities and speak more than 21 languages.

We’re on the lookout for a number of exceptional Consultants to join our ranks and deliver robust insurance solutions for the various nationalities that call China home.

Who are we looking for?

A great insurance Consultant at Pacific Prime puts the client at the centre of their entire decision making. We’re looking for people that:

  • Are able to represent the client’s interest and provide them with balanced and appropriate advice, delivering solutions with the Pacific Prime customer service ethic and integrity
  • Demonstrate a strong knowledge and ability promote and highlight key points of insurance to prospective clients
  • Will proactively contact and secure new business accounts and clients
  • Care for the after Sales service during the client’s policy year

A thoughtful person with a great eye for detail, and excellent communication and interpersonal skills is a great start. We want you to be a person that our clients feel comfortable with and would be confident recommending you to their friends and peers.

More specifically, we’re hiring for our Beijing and Shanghai offices who are seeking multiple candidates who are:

  • (Both offices) Local Chinese citizens with native-level Chinese language skills; or
  • (Both offices) Expats with fluent-level Portuguese or Spanish language skills; or
  • (Beijing) Expats with fluent-level Russian language skills; or
  • (Both offices) Expats with other fluent-level non-English language skills.

It’s important that candidates can speak, read, and write in these languages and, as a global company, fluent-level English communication skills are a must for all candidates.

chinese female insurance consultant smiling in professional pose

What will a Consultant do?

The essential job functions of a Pacific Prime Consultant include:

  • Engaging and representing clients who have enquired about insurance products through our marketing channels, ascertaining their needs and requirements early in the relationship.
  • Producing clear and effective correspondence and records for the client and company, either through paper form, email or via our dedicated CRM system.
  • Addressing and resolving any client concerns, issues, or complaints with a satisfactory outcome for the client and Pacific Prime.
  • Coordinating with internal teams (administration, claims, client services, renewals) to ensure all forms, records, and information required is handled swiftly and appropriately
  • Supporting the Pacific Prime management teams by identifying advantages and industry developments, as well as providing client insights if needed.

You’ll need to demonstrate you can be autonomous and enthusiastic, whilst still being able to work collaboratively and supportively in a team setting. If you’re driven by results, strong in negotiation and are comfortable working with a range of office suite applications, then you could be the Consultant we’re looking for.

Why choose Pacific Prime China?

Our staff are important to us and new Consultants will be able to take advantage of our exceptional sales and insurance training program to make sure they start off on the right foot. Our employment package includes:

  • A competitive base salary
  • Generous rates of commission
  • Health insurance
  • Career progression and pathways to senior roles
  • Transfer opportunities to our other Pacific Prime offices
  • Visa sponsorship for non-Chinese citizens

You’ll be working alongside some of Asia’s top and most diverse insurance consultants; from experienced seniors who have 20-30 years experience, to fresh, innovative new talent who keep us ahead of the game. We’re a company that values community too; both of our Beijing and Shanghai offices provide staff with company dinners, social outings, and the opportunity to get involved in charitable events during the year.

Apply for a Consultant role with Pacific Prime China now

If you’re ready to let us know why you’re the next Consultant we’ll be adding to the Pacific Prime family, then send us your CV to [email protected]. Cover letters are optional and we’ll be looking to take references from you during interviews. Preference will be given to candidates that already live in Beijing and Shanghai; however we’re open to considering people that are looking to relocate.

Being a Consultant is an exciting and busy role and one we’re sure you’ll excel in! Contact us now so we can expand the Pacific Prime China brand together!

Posted by Luther in News
Minimizing risk with cyber insurance

Minimizing risk with cyber insurance

Follow any tech or security blogs and news and it quickly becomes apparent that nearly every week there is some massive new security breach found in computer software, operating systems, and sometimes even hardware. In many cases these risks are actually fairly minimal to many companies in China, but at least once every couple months there is a risk uncovered that poses a potentially massive threat. In mid-May, 2017 that threat was WannaCry, one which has infected a disproportionately high number of computers in China. Here, Sylver Zhong, Pacific Prime China’s Head Property & Casualty Consultant discusses this threat, why your business may be at risk, and how cyber insurance can help you effectively deal with the risk of cyber threats.

What exactly is WannaCry?

WannaCry is a piece of malware (malicious software) called a “worm” that infects computers and essentially holds important files hostage until a ransom – in this case around USD 300 in bitcoin (a digital currency) is paid. This type of infection is commonly referred to by experts as “ransomware” and has become a major concern for companies around the world.

While ransomware has been infecting computers since the early days of computer networking, attacks have become more frequent and sophisticated. This attack is simply the latest major computer security threat, and is being hailed by some as the biggest ransomware threat to date.

What sets it apart from other worms and ransomware attacks is the fact that it has managed to attack a number of public institutions and companies around the world. Initially discovered on May 12, this worm which attacks computers and networks running Microsoft Windows, has since spread around the world.

In fact, according to CNET, the worm managed to infect over 200,000 computers in 150 different countries by May 15. From what we know of the malware, it has been quite successful. Companies like Deutsche Bahn, FedEx, and even the National Health Service in the UK have all been infected.   

How is it infecting computers?

When WannaCry was first detected and reported on, it was noted that the worm was being transmitted in an email campaign where files attached and opened would introduce it to computers and infect them. While this is a common way for malicious software to be spread, WannaCry was, in fact, not transmitted this way.

Instead, the hackers who created it did so using a little known Windows OS security flaw originally discovered, and used, by the National Security Agency in the US. According to this article which discusses how WannaCry is spread in Wired, “Without additional proof as to another cause of infection, it can be concluded that the attackers initiated their plan to specifically target machines with a pre-existing vulnerability, using these to spread WannaCry to other systems on a connected network.”

The most important thing to be aware of here is that Microsoft actually published a security update for Windows earlier this year which blocked this hole. Machines with the most up-to-date security update installed are safe from this specific ransomware. That said, the software powering this ransomware is advanced enough to scan networks for out of date machines and start the attack there.

Once one machine is infected, the worm has coding that allows it to scan other computers on the network for ones that do not have the recent security update installed and then transfer and install itself on any other vulnerable computers.

Arguably the most interesting, and scary, thing about this malware is how fast it spread, and how widespread the infections have become. When looking at the numbers infected, it appears that China is easily one of the hardest hit countries.    

Why is it more prevalent in China?

According to this article in the HKFP, “China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Center has confirmed that by 14 May, half of the infected IPs were located in China. The attacks have affected about 30,000 institutions, including universities, immigration checkpoints and oil stations.”

The article goes on to cite that the major reason as to why businesses and institutions in the country are adversely affected is because of the fact that many people in China prefer to use unlicensed versions of Windows. If you do not register your copies of Windows, you will not receive the incredibly important security updates, which means your system is vulnerable.

Another reason as to why it has been so widespread is due to the fact that people might not have known about it and taken steps to update their business’s networks against this threat.

How can I minimize my company’s cyber risk?

Regardless of the reasons why this threat has inversely affected organizations in China, it highlights the fact that many businesses in China can be heavily impacted by a cyber attack. For example, the HKFP article linked above mentions that universities, petrol stations, and immigration networks were heavily infected. In fact, it was reported that WannaCry had managed to infect the Shanghai city and Beijing Chaoyang immigration offices.

When it comes to ransomware, it is important to note that your files are usually locked and if you do not pay the hacker the specified amount there is a good chance the files will be deleted. In many cases, the attacks are coded to look for files with important sounding names and keywords e.g., profit, report, figures, etc. and files that might contain this information e.g., PDF, Word, and Excel files.

Having these files locked could result in your business losing an untold amount of money and time, and in some cases could result in lawsuits from being unable to meet contracts or even a forced closure of your business.

Therefore, it would be a good idea to take steps to avoid cyber threats. The most critical thing is to ensure that you keep all of your software up to date, and if you have not licensed your operating systems, it would be worth doing so.

But it’s not just your systems and networks you need to protect. You should protect your business as well. One of the best ways to do so is by securing two main types of insurance:

  • Cyber insurance: A newer form insurance designed to help businesses from losses stemming from cyber threats such as infected computers, lost data, etc. Many plans also cover things such as the costs of data recovery, replacement systems, ransomware, lawsuits that arise due to hacks and cyber loss, etc.
  • Business liability insurance: An increasing number of liability insurance solutions for businesses are starting to offer cover for cyber and digital related incidents. Having a solution that protects your business’s digital aspects is becoming increasingly important.

At Pacific Prime China we offer a variety of solutions to protect your business including both cyber and business liability. If you are looking to protect your business from the next cyber incident, contact us today.  

Posted by rmcbroom in General Insurance, News
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