China is home to a wide range of public and private healthcare solutions. From inexpensive public hospitals aimed at native Chinese citizens to high-end private hospitals that rank amongst the best medical facilities in the world, living in China gives expatriates and retirees a serious amount of choice when it comes to taking care of their health and responding to personal emergencies.
Like many other countries in the region, China is home to a large public healthcare system. Public hospitals operate in both small towns and major cities, offering inexpensive care to several hundred million patients every year. Small public clinics, often staffed by independent doctors, operate in a variety of Chinese cities and towns, and are the ideal option for inexpensive non-urgent care.
While China’s public healthcare system is generally considered sufficient for minor health issues, it suffers from some structural issues. The first of these is the shortage of qualified doctors in China’s public health system. Due to a lack of skilled staff, many smaller clinics and hospitals may require patients to wait for significant periods of time in order to receive care for non-urgent health issues.
Because of this, most expatriates and retirees in China opt to use the country’s large network of high quality private hospitals. Private hospitals operate in all of China’s major cities, and large business or political centers such as Shanghai and Beijing often boast upwards of ten high quality hospitals, many of which are operated by large multinational health companies.
Paying for healthcare in China is possible using several methods. Most expatriates opt to purchase a health insurance policy which provides coverage for private healthcare in China. These policies are typically sold by insurers based either in China, or by large international insurance companies that specialize in international medical insurance for expatriates, retirees, and international workers.
Due to the cost of many domestic health insurance providers, some expatriates and retirees opt to use travel insurance for their health insurance coverage. Although this option can be less expensive than a local health insurance policy, many people are let down by ‘holes’ in coverage – often a limit on their total level of coverage – that can compromise the value of travelers’ health insurance.
Many wealthy Chinese and international expatriates invest in healthcare outside of China, often in nearby cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Because of this, it’s highly recommended that you purchase evacuation insurance as part of your health insurance policy. This will give you the ability to travel outside of China in the event of a medical emergency to seek treatment nearby.
While China’s private hospitals are typically top notch, there are several issues that expatriates and retirees may wish to know about:
1. Due to the shortage of skilled doctors in China, many hospitals – particularly public hospitals in rural areas – lack sufficient staff. As such, expatriates and retirees living in China’s rural areas may need to travel in order to receive sufficient medical care.
2. Many of China’s private hospitals are geared towards elective procedures. As such, many expatriates and retirees opt to work with a specific hospital for their health check-ups and care, as many doctors are focused on elective care rather than diagnosis.
Whether you’re living in China on a shoestring budget and plan to take care of the country’s rapidly growing public healthcare system, or retiring to China with ample savings and interested in using a private health insurer, you’ll likely have very few problems with medical care in China. From high-end private hospitals to cheap public healthcare, China’s health network is very good for retirees.