Health insurance in China?

August 27, 2010, 04:50 AM posted in General Discussion

Hi all, I did a search for "health insurance" on the community boards, and surprisingly didn't come up with anything.

In any case, I'm currently in the US and will be moving to Shanghai, sans job, to study Chinese for 6 months. Right now I'm looking into plans through Travel Guard, but am just wondering if anyone has any experiences or advice to share on this topic. 

How important is it to have health insurance in China? Does travel insurance "work" for regular visits to the doctors? Is it smarter to buy insurance in the US or in China?

Basically, I'm kind of clueless, and am planning to get travel insurance that includes health coverage.

Any words of wisdom are welcome!

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August 27, 2010, 06:58 AM

If you are studying at a university, they probably will provide you with bare-bones insurance for a very small fee (I think I paid $30 for one year).  The conditions are that you must go to a state run hospital, and you cannot go for basic stuff such.  It is basically for emergencies only.  If you are healthy, perhaps it is worth the risk of not having the kind of coverage you are used to.  If you don't like that option, and you happen to be American, be prepared to pay lots more than any other country out there.  At least that is the way it was before. 

By the way, this information was current two years ago, so it might be completely different now, but perhaps it's a starting point.

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August 27, 2010, 07:07 AM

It is definitely a good idea to have travel insurance when you are in China.  

Most insurers won't cover you after you leave home.  

Sorry, can't advise on what's available in the US.  (World Nomads is a possibility.)  

Regular visits to the doctor are cheap in China if you avoid the 'VIP' options.  A consultation is about US 20 cents - US $1 (my experience is in Hangzhou which may be similar to Shanghai).    You might like to take a native speaker when you go to the doctor as it could be quite confusing.

Procedures (eg. X-rays, scans) are more expensive but generally cheaper than in the West.

If you need particular medications you should check on their availability in China before you go.   

Hope you enjoy your time in Shanghai!  

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August 27, 2010, 03:00 PM

@xiaophil, @bodawei, 

thank you both for the helpful suggestions. i would definitely like to be covered for emergencies, and in the case that i'm feeling unwell, it would be nice to be able to go to the doctor's for a regular consultation. in any case, it sounds like both options are feasible... travel guard is actually quite reasonable - at least a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for full-on health insurance in the us.

sadly the university i'm enrolled in does not offer any health insurance to overseas students.

thanks again to both!

if anyone else has experience using travel insurance in china for health coverage, please do let me know.

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August 27, 2010, 04:02 PM

I guess adding on Bodawei's point, Maybe it's worth thinking about how much money you have for out of pocket medical expenses, even if you do have health insurance (since as you know, there will be things that the insurer will not cover, and a deductible and copay as well).

I recall that in Lanzhou, we had no Chinese health insurance, and had to pay around 6000 RMB for an emergency appendectomy (surgeons, anesthesia, etc). Incredibly cheap by American standards, but a lot of money for that part of China. We didn't even try using the American health insurance that we were still covered under (but the reimbursement process was a pain), because the hospital wouldn't have taken anybody's health insurance anyway.

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August 29, 2010, 01:57 AM

If you were an'd better have a health insurance.Regardless of anything,you have got to medical support as to lower travel expenses.