medical insurance

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

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

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

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

The negative health effects of air pollution

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

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

Short term health effects

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

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

Long term health effects

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

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

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

How healthier eating can address the effects of air pollution

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

The importance of antioxidants and omega-3s

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

What are antioxidants?

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

What are omega-3s?

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

Does it really work?

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

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

Final advice: Don’t forget health insurance

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

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

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance
Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Maternity Insurance in China: Can you buy when you’re already pregnant?

Mothers-to-be have so much to think about and plan for with regards to the arrival of their new bundle of joy. Baby showers, room decorations, picking the right colors for everything depending on if it will be a boy or a girl. These are the types of fun things that people prefer to focus on when imagining their new family unit. What we don’t like to think about are the unpleasant thoughts of what could go wrong during pregnancy, labor and delivery. This is a sad fact, as planning ahead is imperative if you want to make sure that your new baby is completely covered by medical insurance no matter what happens. Here, Pacific Prime China examines how you can make sure your newborn is covered by maternity insurance in China.

What is Maternity Insurance and what does it cover?

Maternity Insurance in China is a separate type of coverage from what normally comes with health insurance coverage. This is because it is specially designed to address the costs associated with the development and birth of a new baby. Since a certain amount of cost is all but guaranteed should a woman become pregnant, as opposed to normal health insurance, in which some people may not get sick while insured, these plans can be a bit pricey and come with restrictions, perhaps the biggest of which are waiting periods, which we will address below.

As far as specific benefits provided by Maternity Insurance, after conception it includes benefits for pre-natal care, which can include medical consultations, regular checkups, ultrasounds, blood and urine tests, birth defect screenings and more. Then, once your bun has been in the oven long enough, Maternity Insurance will pay for the costs of labor and delivery, as well as costs related to the treatment of any complications at birth for both mother and child. It should be noted here that Maternity Insurance provides benefits regardless of your baby being born naturally or via caesarian section.

Beyond these items which are normally covered by Maternity Insurance, plans can also provide benefits for fertility treatment (including In-Vitro Fertility treatment), and costs related to treatment of congenital birth defects.

Why obtain Maternity Insurance in China?

Generally speaking, what level of insurance coverage would parents want when it comes to the birth of their new child? The best, of course! However, without Maternity Insurance, your options for affordable labor and delivery can be limited. This is because the best healthcare provided in China is found in private hospitals, which are a great deal more expensive than what you can expect to pay at public facilities. In fact, you can pay as much as RMB 100,000 for a maternity delivery package in a Chinese public hospital in a city like Shanghai.

Beyond just the price and level of care, there are other considerations that expatriates living in China should account for. One of the largest among these is the potential language barrier. If you are not fluent in Mandarin, then you may have trouble communicating with staff at public hospitals in China, which could be a source of great tension and worry if things seem to go the slightest bit wrong. At private hospitals in China, there are internationally trained doctors and finding one that speaks your language should not be too much trouble. This is all the more reason to ensure that you are free to attend a private hospital.

Waiting periods

A waiting period is a specific amount of time that must pass following the start of an insurance policy before a claim can be made against it. While most of the time waiting periods are not a hugely significant amount of time, when it comes to Maternity Insurance in China, they can be quite lengthy, and make all the difference in the world as to whether your pregnancy, labor and delivery will be covered or not. This is because many insurance companies will make their members possess maternity insurance for 12 months before it can be claimed against.

Now, you may be doing the math and saying, “Wait a minute. That means that if I get Maternity Insurance just before I get pregnant, I won’t have any coverage for my pregnancy.” That’s right. Not only is it far too late to have the lab tests, doctors visits, labor and delivery covered after a child has already been conceived, even if you won’t be pregnant for a month Maternity Insurance is almost certainly likely to not pay out. While there are plans available with waiting periods of only 10 months, this is likely the shortest you will find on the market. And even with a 10 month waiting period, you would want to avoid getting pregnant one month after obtaining such a plan because pre-mature births do happen, and you could miss out on covering birthing costs if the baby comes early.

What to do if it’s too late for maternity coverage

In the event that you are pregnant and do not have a Maternity Insurance plan in place, your options are certainly more limited, but there are still steps you can take to protect your baby as much as possible. Specifically, obtaining a newborn health insurance policy would be an excellent idea.  While this type of insurance does not address costs associated specifically with pregnancy, labor, delivery, or complications that occur prior to birth, after your baby arrives it can be invaluable. This is because, even after getting through the entire birthing process, a newborn is still quite vulnerable to a whole host of diseases that can be acquired almost immediately once he or she is out in the open.

The moral of the story: Plan ahead!

Obviously, if you want to get Maternity Insurance in China, you are going to need to overcome the waiting periods attached to most plans. That means that you need to have a plan in place well ahead of when you plan to conceive in order to be covered through the duration of your pregnancy – up to a year in advance of conception! For this reason, communicate openly with your partner about the timing of your next baby, and get your Maternity Insurance plan now and not when it’s too late.

If you have any questions about the information presented above, or when to secure maternity insurance before it is too late, contact the knowledgeable insurance experts at Pacific Prime China. Our agents are standing by to not only provide you with comparisons of insurance plans offered by China’s best insurers, but also give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Health Insurance, Maternity Insurance
China featured in 2017 International Private Medical Insurance inflation report

China featured in 2017 International Private Medical Insurance inflation report

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.

Posted by Jess in Health Insurance, News