Think you can do without health insurance in China?

User Written by Joseph Regan on January 26, 2016.

Think you can do without health insurance in China?

Some of my clients wonder whether health insurance in China is necessary. Really??? To me it’s an absolute no brainer! Having health insurance wherever you live in the world is always the right choice – there’s nothing quite like having the peace of mind of knowing that whatever happens to your health, from routine visits to a major emergency operation, you’ll get through it without breaking the bank.

And if you’re one of the ones who “doesn’t get sick” or is always “very cautious,” learn a lesson from one of my clients. After meeting with him, he told me he didn’t want to pay for medical insurance and assured me that nothing bad would happen. Two months later, he was hit by a car and broke his collar bone. The total cost of his medical bills was 100,000 RMB – roughly 15,000 USD! If he had signed up for a basic, low-cost plan two months early, his savings wouldn’t have been depleted.

If the above story wasn’t enough and you’re still thinking of skipping on health insurance, ask yourselves these questions and then see if you are willing to risk it.

Do you want access to the best hospitals China has to offer?

There are world-class medical facilities in China which rival the best of the best, but they come at a price. In fact, private healthcare in China is some of the most expensive in the world. Most expats understandably favor these internationally renowned facilities, wanting access to the most up-to-date equipment and practices, but the cost of them can be ruinous if you are paying out of your own pocket. Furthermore, if you’re in a serious accident, the paramedics will transport you to a foreign hospital just because you look foreign, meaning you’ll have to pay the high costs associated with that facility. Health insurance not only pays for the bills, it also grants you access to the best medical treatment the country has to offer.

Do you speak Mandarin?

Local hospitals are obviously cheaper, but English-speaking staff are not guaranteed. And if you’re like me who speaks Mandarin fluently, you still shouldn’t underestimate the language barrier – don’t ask me how to say triple heart bypass surgery in Chinese… Let’s face it, when it comes to something as important your health, muddling through in a foreign tongue is not something you want to deal with, especially given the fact that medical terms in English can be hard to understand at times.

The barrier doesn’t stop with language – there are cultural differences as well. Would you prefer to take Chinese traditional medicine or Western medicine? Is acupuncture a suitable treatment for your back pains? Is “resting for three months in bed” (a Chinese doctor recommended this to a local friend of mine after a scooter accident) a proper remedy? These are recommendations a local health facility may dish out.

Lastly, you should also understand that you may not get top notch treatment if you opt for a local hospital. A good friend of mine who was experiencing stomach aches went to a local medical facility in Xi’an, and after the check-up they told him the pain was caused by eating bad food. A few months later, after the excruciating pain never went away, doctors in the US diagnosed him with cancer.

Do you travel?

You’re an expat abroad, of course you travel. So why not add travel insurance to your policy? It costs only about 100 USD per year to protect against lost luggage, delayed flights, and all the other hassles the world of travel can throw at us. Plus, if you’re on a medical policy from your home country, chances are it may not fully protect you while you’re abroad, unlike expat packages that can protect you everywhere. Don’t let little mishaps ruin your dream experience abroad, life is too short.

There are hundreds of different of add-ons that you can hook on to your basic medical insurance policy to help protect you and your family’s specific needs. Whether it be a group policy for the employees at your new tech start-up, or something as simple as getting your asthma medicine refilled for free, there’s a good insurance plan out there for you. If you’d like help selecting a policy, I work with all the major providers and can compare insurers to find the most cost-effective cover for your needs. Interested? Why not contact me today at

Joseph Regan

Joseph Regan

Posted on January 26, 2016 in Insurance.