There is an increasing number of UK expats working in China. Chinese hospitals require payment for treatment; so adequate health insurance is a must.
An increasing number of expats are signing up for local or ‘halfpat’ packages that do not include international health insurance, but just cover treatment in China.
Travel insurance is not a good substitute for health insurance because travel insurance usually carries lower benefit limits, and/or restricts how long you can maintain coverage. Time restriction are particularly dangerous, as the insurance company effectively pushes the risk of paying for any long-term medical care back to you.
To save money, some expats are buying in-patient only. In-patient generally refers to coverage for emergency hospitalization, but does not cover outpatient care (for example visits to a doctor’s office or clinic for a checkup).
The problem with half pat health insurance is that if a person becomes ill or is injured while working in China, it will not cover repatriation costs or air ambulance costs.
Full expat health insurance is a problem as China is becoming very strict on insurance agents selling offshore insurance (i.e. no taxes paid in China).
The expat schemes offered locally are becoming increasingly competitive and sophisticated. Group schemes, whereby the company purchases insurances for all expats, are cost effective and flexible with direct billing at major Shanghai/Beijing hospitals and clinics.
There are many legal issues in China that are uncertain and there are still international medical insurance providers, in the UK and operating through agents in China, selling cover to expats in China even though they are not a licensed individual medical insurance plan in China.
International health insurance: News update: 22 October 2010