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Health Insurance and Healthcare in China: Explained

Living abroad can make it difficult to understand a foreign healthcare system, especially if there are language barriers or cultural differences.

China has a national healthcare system that covers over 90% of its population. However, coverage is subject to regional interpretations of national laws. Expats have the option of choosing between private insurance, VIP wards and the public system.

This overview of China’s healthcare system covers key topics for expats. It includes insurance options, finding a doctor and even giving birth in China, which can be an extraordinary experience for those who have the right insurance.

What is the Chinese Healthcare System?

China has free healthcare that is covered by the social insurance program. The basic healthcare system covers the majority of the population, as well as expats. It will vary depending on where you live. Some areas do not require foreign residents to pay the required taxes in order to be eligible for China expat health insurance.

What does China’s Health Insurance look like?

There are three types of medical insurance: basic coverage for employees of urban enterprises, basic cover for all other urban residents and rural cooperative health insurance for the farm population.

China’s basic medical insurance for urban employees is mandatory. Both the employer and employee pay the healthcare costs. The employer pays 6% and the employee 2% respectively. Although they may have different contributions, the average contribution is 6%. This insurance is also available to the self-employed, but they must contribute all.

Non-enterprise residents have their own health insurance and the state pays for it. The state subsidizes insurance for the unemployed and those who receive social assistance.

Are Healthcare Services Free in China?

You will need to pay upfront for healthcare services in China regardless of where you live or how much coverage you have. You may get reimbursement for some or all of the costs depending on which insurance plan you have.

It is important to note that the public healthcare system has some gaps. It doesn’t typically cover emergency transport costs, nor does it grant you access to private healthcare facilities. Your non-working relatives may not be covered even if they have public health insurance.

Consider the pros and cons to the health system before you decide on private insurance.

A Review of Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance is a bit of a mystery because the Chinese government is primarily concerned with public healthcare. Private healthcare services can be confusing and costly because of a lack of understanding and cooperation between insurers and hospitals. People with average incomes are not able to afford Chinese health insurance at an average cost. The public is not well informed about the options available to them and those who are able to afford it rarely choose private healthcare.

Private Healthcare Plans in China

Life insurance policies are the most popular type of healthcare plan. These policies pay a lump sum for any serious illness that a person has been diagnosed with. This type of insurance has limited coverage but is very affordable. Private individuals often find reimbursement-type policies too costly, so it is something that most companies are able to afford. Consider asking your employer if they can include you and your family members in your company’s group plan.

The current landscape of the market for health insurance is very narrow. The services of local companies are provided in Mandarin, and expats will not find English-speaking customer service. Local companies are available if you speak the language and have someone who can assist you in navigating the process of getting health insurance. You will have more options for choosing your hospital or doctor when you get one from a local company.

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