Health insurance in China

Area 4

Expatriation information: China

Official name People’s Republic of China
Government Republic
Area 9,561,000 sq. km
Capital Beijing
Main cities Shanghai, Canton, Tianjin, Chongqing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Shenyang
Common language(s) Chinese, Cantonese
Currency Renminbi (RMB)
Population 1.3 billion
Life expectancy at birth 72.8 years
Literacy rate 93%
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Find out more about the healthcare system of this country.


The Chinese Local Healthcare Insurance System

The Chinese Act on the implementation of a unified social security system is fairly recent and came into effect on July 1, 2011.

This new social security system provides basic coverage to Chinese nationals only (except under specific conditions). This coverage includes old-age pension insurance, unemployment insurance, healthcare insurance, work-related accident insurance, and maternity insurance.
This system has been gradually implemented and will be extended to the entire Chinese population, both urban and rural, by 2020.

As this is not a national system, provinces, prefectures and districts are responsible for applying the central government’s directives.

In general, China maintains a good healthcare system and provides quality medical care.

Doctors’ visits in China

In China, Traditional Chinese Medicine is very common although Western medicine tends to be increasingly used.
Consultations with Chinese GPs or specialists only take place at the hospital. Homecare does not exist.
Consultation fees vary from one doctor to another and can reach RMB 700 (around USD 100) in private hospitals.

Being admitted to the hospital in China

Chinese public hospitals:
Public hospitals (large facilities) are quite often divided into two different departments: one is intended for local residents while the other one is dedicated to foreigners and VIPs. Consultation fees are not the same depending on the department consulted: around RMB 50 for a consultation in the case of a local resident and up to RMB 300 for an expatriate.
Please note that consultations are not conducted in the same way in the two departments: it is not unusual to see locals enter a room without knocking on the door and even take part in your consultation.
As we are not used to such practices, we may find them disrespectful but this is totally natural for Chinese people.
This would not happen in the expatriate department where medical confidentiality is respected. Furthermore, doctors often speak English.

Chinese medical centers for foreign people (international facilities):
There are many ultra-modern international private facilities intended for foreigners who can either afford this type of medical care or are covered by health insurance. Prices of consultations are much higher than those in public hospitals but the hospital environment is more welcoming and provides international staff.
Doctors have the same expertise level as those in public hospitals but consultations are more Western-inspired and much more tailored to expatriates.

Emergency services:
Emergency services in public hospitals are open 24 hours a day but they are often filled to capacity with local residents. In very large facilities, you can find 200 people waiting before you. As for expatriates or VIPs, waiting times are shorter due to higher prices. The same applies to private medical centers.

Buying drugs in China

Drugs prescribed by the hospital’s doctor must be bought directly at the hospital’s pharmacy, whether they are Traditional Chinese Medicine or Western medicine drugs.

Last updated on February 2013

Location: China

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