China health insurance

Vaccinations in China: Do vaccines work, and will your health insurance cover it?

Vaccinations in China: Do vaccines work, and will your health insurance cover it?

With all the #VaccinesWork hashtags floating around social media lately, most of you probably know that the last week of April (24 – 30 April) was World Immunization Week. As an annual awareness initiative dedicated to promoting the power of vaccines, World Immunization Week addressed the issue that although vaccines have helped prevent at least 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015, they’re still not fully utilized and there’s still progress to be made.

What’s more, the week also focused on validating information on vaccine safety, as many people today are still sceptical about vaccinations. This week’s article uncovers whether vaccines truly work, and looks at everything you need to know about vaccinations in regards to your expat health insurance policy.

Do vaccines really work?

In recognition of the end of World Immunization Week 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) tweeted the following message about vaccines:

WHO VaccinesWork capture

Source: WHO’s Twitter page (2017)

But, how do vaccines save lives and prevent diseases? Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, many parents and caregivers remain concerned about whether vaccines are truly safe for their children.

Why are people so sceptical about vaccines?

There are many reasons behind why people are sceptical about vaccines. Firstly, the internet is filled with websites publishing misleading information regarding vaccine safety. Secondly, people are often afraid of what they don’t fully understand. Many people believe that the ingredients in vaccines are harmful, simply because they sound scary. For example, many people believe that a preservative called thimerosal present in vaccines is harmful because it has mercury in it.

Thimerosal is an antifungal agent used to preserve multi-dose vials of vaccine. While thimerosal does have mercury in it, it’s actually an ethyl mercury, which is a harmless type of mercury that gets flushed out of the body. On the other hand, methyl mercury is the bad type; commonly found in tuna and other fish species high up on the food chain (e.g. king mackerel, swordfish).

For further vaccine facts, you can also check out The Nib’s informative comic on how vaccines work:

The Nib vaccines comic capture

Source: The Nib (2014)

How vaccines work

The vital importance of vaccines can’t be stressed enough, because they prevent dangerous and deadly infectious diseases (e.g. polio). The use of vaccines has increased significantly since 2000. For example, by the end of 2015, 85% of the world’s children were injected with the measles vaccine – up from 73% in 2000. What’s more, since 1988 cases of polio have decreased by over 99%!

Vaccines work by injecting an imitation infection to provoke an immune response. This type of imitation infection does not cause illness, and instead causes the immune system to produce defensive white blood cells (T-lymphocytes) and antibodies.

These germ fighting tools help the body get over this imitation infection, and afterwards the immune system learns how to protect the body against that particular disease. Sometimes, the body may experience mild adverse symptoms (e.g. fever), as the body is building immunity against the infection.

Ever heard of the saying: “prevention is better than cure”? Despite ongoing advances in healthcare, diseases that vaccinations prevent can still be very deadly if you’re not vaccinated against them. As such, vaccinations are considered the best way to protect yourself from contracting a whole host of diseases.

Vaccinations in China

Expat parents in China are often concerned about what kind of vaccinations their children will need, as vaccination schedules vary between different countries. As vaccination schedules are designed around the prevalence of certain diseases in the country, you may find that China and other countries in Asia may provide vaccines that other countries outside of Asia may not. Expat parents should therefore make a balanced decision and consult with their doctor to find the best vaccination solution for their child.

Internationally standard vaccines, which are the vaccines that in most countries people should or are recommended to get starting from childhood, including the following:

  • DTaP: This vaccine provides protection against diphtheria (a bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat), tetanus (an infection that causes muscle spasms), and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • Polio: An infectious diseases that can cause muscle weakness and even muscle paralysis.
  • MMR: Provides protection against mumps (a contagious diseases that can lead to brain damage and even death), measles (a viral infection of the respiratory system) and rubella (a contagious disease that is very dangerous for pregnant women and their unborn child).
  • Hib: Provides protection against Haemophilus influenzae type b, a bacterium that can lead to a whole host of serious illnesses (e.g. meningitis), particularly in children.
  • Pneumococcal diseases: People with pneumococcal disease can develop pneumonia, blood infection, meningitis, and ear infections.

On top of the above vaccinations, the following vaccinations are especially recommended for people in China:

  • Japanese encephalitis: Protects against a mosquito-borne virus that can cause brain infection. It’s more of an issue in southern China, but Beijing has had cases as well.
  • Typhoid: A fever developed from consuming Salmonella-contaminated food.
  • Rabies: Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and various other mammals. This vaccine is especially recommended for people often involved in outdoor activities, and children (as they tend to play with animals).
  • Yellow fever: While there’s no yellow fever risk in China, the country requires proof of the vaccination if you’re arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever.
  • Hepatitis B: This virus is an infectious inflammatory illness that affects the liver, and comes with a risk of chronic infection.
  • BCG: A vaccine against tuberculosis, an infectious diseases that in most cases affects the lungs.

Adults and teens need vaccinations too

A common misconception is that preventative vaccinations are for children only. What many people do not know is that adult boosters are also available. For example, most adults need a tetanus booster every ten years. There’s also what’s commonly known as the flu jab, an annual influenza vaccination that protects people against this highly contagious respiratory tract illness. This is not only recommended for younger children, but also advised for people who are particularly susceptible to developing more serious illnesses like pneumonia.

The 2016 illegal vaccine scandal

In May 2016, news headlines in China and worldwide were dominated by China’s illegal vaccine scandal, which saw 135 people in 22 provinces arrested for running vaccine businesses without a license. Ten on-duty health officials were also found guilty of knowingly buying illegal vaccines and using them on people at local public health centres.

This was not the first time that a vaccine scandal has occurred. In March 2016, 2 million doses of vaccines were found to be improperly stored. In light of these scandals, expats often opt for treatment at private hospitals for further peace of mind, a higher standard of care, and imported vaccines. Private care does, however, come with a hefty price tag, which is why securing private health insurance is key.

Vaccinations and your health insurance

Vaccinations can be very expensive at private hospitals, so it’s a good idea to check whether your health insurance includes cover for vaccinations. Typically supplied under the outpatient benefit of a number of China health insurance plans, the vaccination benefit will ensure that you and/or your child are protected against the high cost of receiving vaccinations.

Things to look out for

It’s important that you study your policy and look out for all plan limitations. For example, many insurers may cap the coverage amount on that benefit, meaning the limit may not be high enough to reimburse you for all your vaccination expenses. You may also find that the vaccination benefit in your plan is limited only to the types of vaccines it covers.

Cover for vaccinations may also be subject to a waiting period, meaning you’ll need to wait a specific amount of time from when you first secured your plan before you can receive coverage for that benefit. Some plans are also more flexible than others, meaning that you’ll be able to tailor your plan so that they provide the vaccination coverage for your children, rather than the adults in your family.

Vaccinations can be very expensive, which is why it often helps to clarify with your broker or insurer as to whether or not your health insurance covers the vaccination benefit. Contact our team of insurance experts to learn more today!

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
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
Diabetes in China: the fast growing health issue

Diabetes in China: the fast growing health issue

The number of diabetes cases worldwide reached an alarming 422 million people according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study last year. Eat healthily, be active and avoid excessive weight gain is the advice of WHO chief Margaret Chan. Governments and organizations alike are being called upon to ramp up measures to reduce diabetes risk factors with the 1980s case figures only amounting to 108 million.

China, maybe somewhat surprisingly, is one of the biggest movers in diabetes cases worldwide. Little over ten years ago, the Chinese diet was being touted as a potential solution to the West’s obesity issue. Now, however, the country looks set to find itself facing a significantly growing diabetes problem. So how big is the problem, and what can people do to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in China?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition which can affect the entire body. When someone has diabetes, their body finds it difficult to maintain healthy levels of glucose (a form of sugar). A hormone called insulin is used to successfully convert glucose into energy. Diabetes stops or restricts this process, and can leave high levels of energy in the blood of sufferers.

There are three types of diabetes; type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes:

  • Type 1: Occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells of the pancreas, releasing little or no insulin to the body and causing sugar to build up in the blood. Between 5 to 10 percent of diabetes cases are Type 1.
  • Type 2: Occurs where the body cannot properly use the insulin that is released, or cannot make enough. This results in sugar also building up in the blood instead of being converted into energy. About 90 percent of people with diabetes suffer from Type 2.
  • Gestational diabetes: This is a temporary condition that can occur during pregnancy, affecting approximately 2 to 4 percent of all pregnancies. Its development can also lead to both mother and child developing type 1 or 2 diabetes later.

Having a high blood sugar level can cause complications such as chronic kidney disease, foot problems, non-traumatic limb amputation, eye disease and blindness, heart attack, stroke, anxiety, nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction. The exact causes of Type 1 diabetes is unknown but genetic susceptibility, environmental factors are strongly linked causes. Being overweight increases your risks of developing Type 2.

The growing problem of diabetes in China

With China accounting for 19 percent of the global population, the WHO study reveals that the country accounts for a significantly higher number of diabetes cases around the world. Of the 422 million cases, China accounts for 129.3 million; a whopping 30 percent of all cases. Even more concerning is the rate in which diabetes has grown in China. 9.4 percent of Chinese adults have diabetes, up from less than 1 percent in 1980.

The figures are concerning. Dr Hai-rim Shin, from the WHO’s regional office in Manila, told the SCMP that risk factors for diabetes in China has increased. 35.4 percent of Chinese adults are overweight, 7.3 percent are obese, and 23.8 percent of those studied were deemed to be “physically inactive” (not performing at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week).

Comparing China’s figures with the United States, American’s have a much higher proportion of overweight people (69.6 percent overweight, 35 percent obese, and 35 percent physically inactive), yet their prevalence of diabetes is a lower 9.1 percent. In the same article, the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative (ADPI) attributes this to Asians’ lower muscle mass and higher abdominal fat, both of which increase insulin resistance.

Finally, nationwide study in China has found a significant association between diabetes and all-cause mortality compared with those without diabetes. According to Dr Fiona Bragg, of the University of Oxford in England, the recent prevalence of diabetes in China makes its full on effect on mortality unknown, however it’s clear that those with diabetes experience a 9-year shorter lifespan.

Reducing your risk of diabetes

If you’re concerned about developing diabetes in China, then the ADPI has some general tips for reducing your risks:

  • Keep a healthy weight: This means be aware of any excess fat around your waist and adjusting your lifestyle in order to reduce body fat.
  • Eat a healthy diet: This includes reducing your consumption of refined grains, unhealthy fats and oils, red meat, and sugar.
  • Get active: Try to engage in as much physical activity during the week as possible; this includes small stuff like taking the stairs instead of an escalator, or walking rather than taking a car, train or bus when you can.

Exercise also helps reduce risk by improving your sleep and your mood, with both abnormal sleep and depression being linked to diabetes development.

Getting tested for diabetes is possible through your GP or hospital in a number of ways. The Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test can determine whether you have Type 1, 2 or prediabetes, otherwise your doctor might screen you with a random blood sugar test, fasting blood sugar test, or an oral glucose test. Glucose testing (initial challenge and follow-up tolerance testing) for pregnant women helps screen for gestational diabetes.

Testing can generally be paid for by your insurance as long as diabetes is not already a pre-existing condition. Getting your glucose levels checked and having a conversation with your doctor can help you determine your risk of developing diabetes, as well as help you adjust your lifestyle to reduce risk. With such an exponential growth in rates of diabetes in China, getting checked might just save your life.

Get insured

Health insurance can help you pay for the costs associated with diabetes. It’s possible for policies to pay some or all of your testing costs, and some plans may even cover the costs of medicine and equipment for those living with diabetes. If you’re not sure your plan does provide coverage for diabetes, or you want to find health insurance coverage that will, contact the experts at Pacific Prime China.

Their agents are familiar with a range of packages that can comprehensively insure your health, and the health of your loved ones. For a free, no obligation quote, call Pacific Prime China today!

Posted by Luther in Illness
Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

Motorbike changes in China: What it might mean for you

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

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

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

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

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

New traffic fines for scooters and mopeds

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

Scooter and moped restrictions

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

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

Staying safe on Chinese roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

China health insurance

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Exclusions
  • Age limits

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

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

Local insurance

Pro

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

Con

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

International insurance

Pros

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

Con

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

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

Posted by Travis Jones in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance