Guide to International Health Insurance in Hong Kong17 Feb, 2022
Hong Kong has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. The cost of simple specialist services can run into thousands of (HK) dollars and easily strain your finances. While most employers provide an expat health plan that contributes towards your medical expenses, these plans are usually very limited. Coverage may only be limited to healthcare facilities in Hong Kong or Asia. Some types of specialty medical services such as maternity and dentistry may also not be included. Additional private medical insurance is often required to cover your healthcare needs and protect your peace of mind.
This page explores options and considerations for finding the right international health coverage in Hong Kong.
The State of Healthcare in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a world-class healthcare system. Both public and private hospitals have the latest equipment and are staffed with well-trained doctors. The HK government - through the Hospital Authority - has highly subsidized medical services in the public sector. Eligible individuals (Hong Kong citizens, permanent residents, and expatriates who have a valid visa and Hong Kong ID) receive treatment almost free of charge. Overburdening of the public healthcare service usually leads to lower quality of services and longer wait times. As a result, many expats seek treatment at private healthcare facilities, where service delivery is efficient and patients can choose their doctor. Many private hospitals in Hong Kong also have a high proportion of English-speaking staff. Despite these advantages, the cost of private healthcare in Hong Kong is however very high (second only to the United States by global standards). For instance, the cost of childbirth can vary from HK$60,000 to HK$250,000 or even more. Expats should ensure that they have adequate medical insurance coverage to protect from these costs and secure their peace of mind.
Freedom of Choice With Global Health Coverage in Hong Kong
One of the best things about international medical insurance is that it allows you to choose where you wish to receive medical treatment. This means you can choose a hospital that is recognized for its high quality of care, or where you trust a particular doctor or specialist. The fact that these policies provide worldwide coverage is another major advantage. If you are sick and the best doctor or hospital for the medical condition you have is located abroad, then you can travel to that location and still have the policy come through. This kind of flexibility makes it easy and possible for expats to access the best healthcare options around the world.
International Health Insurance - Coverage Options
Depending on the specific policy options, international health insurance can cover a wide range of medical services:
Inpatient cover - this is the most basic level of coverage available with any health insurance in Hong Kong. It caters for the cost of treatment including the room, surgery expenses, and cost of medication when you are admitted to a hospital.
Outpatient cover - this is the most common level of coverage for health insurance in Kong. Outpatient coverage takes care of in-patient services along with consultations, diagnostics, specialist visits, prescription drugs taken while at home, and physiotherapy and rehabilitation. Preventive check-ups and vaccinations are also usually covered. Optical treatment is also usually included under outpatient plans.
Maternity cover - this type of international health insurance coverage will pay for maternity treatment and checkups, emergency services such as C-section, and treatment costs for newborns. Maternity insurance will cover all the costs associated with pregnancy and childbearing. There is usually a waiting period involved when purchasing maternity insurance.
Dental cover - dental insurance is usually not included in most employer-provided and individual health plans. This coverage can however be added to your international health plan at an additional cost. Dental coverage may pay for routine dental services such as check-ups and cleanings, or specialty services such as crowns, gingivitis, gold jackets, bridges, braces, and more.
Chinese medicine - some medical health insurance plans provide coverage for alternative Chinese medicine.
Choosing the Right International Medical Policy
There are multiple health insurance providers in Hong Kong. Choosing the right global health plan can be confusing. Below are some tips to get you going.
Evaluate your needs - the first step to find insurance that matches your needs is to weigh your needs. Do you have an employer-sponsored insurance plan and does it provide comprehensive coverage? What level of coverage does a specific plan provide? Does it cover all the services you need (including maternity, dental, or Chinese medicine). Getting your requirements lined out will help you save money and find a policy that provides adequate coverage.
Study options - now that you know what exactly you are looking for, the next step is to conduct some research and identify options that are available on the market. A local plan may suffice if you plan to stay in Hong Kong for an elongated duration of time. However, if you’ll travel soon rather than later, a global health plan is better suited to match your needs. Using an online health insurance comparison service can make it easier for you to compare different insurance companies and policies.
Consider customer service - it is important to consider how you will be able to get in touch with your selected insurance provider. Do they have open lines on a 24/7 basis? Is there a communication barrier? While these details are usually taken lightly when comparing international health insurance plans, they can make a difference in your experience.
Think billing and claims processing - different companies have varying policies when it comes to billing and claims processing. Does the insurance company offer direct billing where they directly pay the hospital? This tends to be an excellent option for ex-pats. In the case of reimbursement claims, some insurers may pay within days while others can take months. Ask the right questions to find a company that will be super easy to work with.
Comparing international health insurance plans is never a walk in the park. Even if you understand the jargon, there is so much to compare. A Hong Kong health insurance broker can help you wade through the options, review policies, and find an international health insurance plan that is best for you or your family’s needs and fits within your budget.
International Health Insurance Premiums and Renewal
International medical insurance coverage is more expensive than a local policy. Premiums are calculated based on factors such as age, coverage area, and plan benefits. Global health insurance premiums will increase as you age and as the cost of medical treatment increases. Unlike local plans, most international Hong Kong health insurance plans are guaranteed renewable for life. This essentially means that you can renew your coverage for as long as you want without being restricted by age or other factors.
Is Employer-provided health insurance enough?
Employer-provided expat health insurance plans usually aren’t enough. The coverage may be limited to a geographic location (e.g. Hong Kong or Asia only) and may include specialty services such as dental and maternity. It is very common for expats in Hong to purchase additional individual health insurance referred to as top-up plans. These plans ensure that you have the comprehensive coverage you need to meet your medical needs during your stay in Hong Kong. Leaving or losing your job while living in Hong Kong can also have an adverse consequence on your health coverage. Even when the employer allows for the policy to be portable, there are typically very strict conditions.
What is international health insurance?
Global health coverage of an international health insurance plan covers medical expenses for expats living in Hong Kong. This type of insurance has global coverage and can pay for a wide range of medical services ranging from emergency and routine healthcare to specialist services and even alternative therapies. For foreigners who plan to live or work in Hong Kong for a significant duration of time, buying an international health insurance plan can protect your peace of mind and ensure that you have access to quality medical care when needed.
Travel health insurance vs international health insurance
Many people tend to confuse between travel medical insurance and international medical coverage. While these two policies are designed for people who are staying away from their home country, they are quite different in principle. Travel insurance is meant for holidaymakers and usually covers cancellations, personal belongings, and emergency medical treatment. International medical insurance, on the other hand, covers medical expenses for expats and allows you to choose where you want to receive your treatment.
What does international health insurance cost?
The cost of international health coverage in Hong Kong will vary from one policyholder based on factors such as age and selected benefits. Using an online health insurance comparison service can bring you up to speed on projected premiums so you can choose a policy that matches your needs and fits your budget.