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Health care options in China - which is best?

Pacific Prime China looks into health care options in China and which is best for expats.

Posted on Oct 09, 2015 by Rob McBroom

Most expats moving or living in China know that to get the best medical care you are most likely going to have to go to an international hospital. While these hospitals hire western or western trained doctors, and offer medical care that more or less meets western standards, they can be quite expensive. The first time you visit one of these facilities you may be left with a bit of 'sticker shock' when it comes time to pay the bill, which could lead to the search for cheaper care options.

To help, here is a quick overview of the health care options available to expats in larger cities in China.

Public hospitals and clinics

The biggest upside with public facilities is that you will be charged the same rate as every other person seeking care. Care at these facilities is considerably cheaper than almost all western facilities, but this comes at a price, as the quality of care varies widely.

Beyond that, the public system is not friendly to foreigners. What we mean by this is that it functions differently from the public healthcare system most are used to in their home countries. For example you will need to pay either a deposit or a set amount before joining the queue to see a doctor, then pay for each subsequent procedure before it happens. This means that in busier facilities you will likely be waiting in order to receive any care. Also, many public hospitals likely won't have staff who speak fluent English so it may be a struggle to receive the best care possible.

If you have a friend or colleague who speaks fluent mandarin, then navigating the public system can be much, much easier. In fact, many expats who only need a small, or simple, checkup may opt to visit these facilities.

International wings at public hospitals

In larger cities such as Shanghai, and Beijing a number of public hospitals have opened, or are planning to open, international or VIP wings. These wings are designed to offer a higher quality of care, usually on-par with some private facilities, that bridges the gap between the public and private sectors.

These wings are located within public hospitals and usually have larger rooms and modern medical facilities staffed by western-trained doctors. Of course, this bump in quality comes at a price, with many treatments costing well above rates charged at public hospitals.

Private or International hospitals

These facilities are often foreign hospitals that offer an international level of care. Go to one of these facilities and you will find a level of care on-par with the hospitals in most western countries. This is largely because many of these are run in partnership with large western hospitals which means that the staff will be western, or western trained doctors who are highly trained and capable of offering the highest level of care in China.  

Like many western hospitals, the international hospitals in China will also have up-to-date, or even leading-edge medical technology and comfortable rooms. Due to this, the fees charged are often on-par, or even slightly above those in many western countries - insurance companies in China refer to these hospitals as "high cost providers" or HCP.

Which is the best option?

Generally speaking, you will receive the absolute best care at international facilities. But, as we mentioned above these facilities can be expensive so it will depend on whether you can afford to receive all of your medical care at these facilities.

With that being said, even the international wings at public hospitals can be expensive, so it would be a good idea to secure health insurance. Pacific Prime China has a wide variety of health insurance plans available that will cover medical costs in China, allowing you the ability to afford to seek medical care at both international and VIP facilities.

What's more, if you decide to go to a public facility, almost all of our health insurance plans offer direct billing within their network in China. This means that when you get to the hospital, you can get them to bill your insurer directly, which can speed up access to care.

Contact us today to learn more about our plans and how they can help you receive the best medical care available in China today.  


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