As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rip its way through the world impacting our individual health, the health of our economies and putting a strain on our healthcare systems, this has raised many questions regarding this pandemic and its effect on private health insurance coverage.
On April 28th, Hong Kong has fared very well compared to other areas despite being so close to the epicenter of the outbreak and having a large elderly population. So far, there have been 1,038 confirmed cases in Hong Kong with 811 people recovered and discharged, 223 hospitalized with 4 critical, and only 4 deaths since the start of this outbreak. While there is still a long way to go to beating this virus, there are good reasons to be cautiously optimistic.
Hong Kong has a robust healthcare system created by blending a government-run public healthcare system with a more free-market system in keeping with the city’s reputation as one of the freest economies in the world. While the public system is world-class, there are many reasons why someone might choose to seek private healthcare in a time of crisis. Many prefer private hospitals and clinics for its more comfortable environments, they’re less crowded, and you’re more likely to find providers that speak your native language - an important issue for expats and other business travellers in Hong Kong.
But with an increased level of service comes increased costs. To offset this, many elect to purchase private insurance coverage. According to Statista, 61% of local Cantonese-speaking residents of Hong Kong carry some form of private health insurance policy or “top-up” policy. This number is surely higher among expats and foreign business people living in the city.
The public healthcare system has an obligation to take care of all residents but the private health insurers have more latitude. So the question that is top of mind for everyone is: what do I need to know about my private insurance policy in these times?
To address these questions, we’ll go over some key facts and issues.
What COVID-19 Patients Might Need
Without any vaccines or cures on the horizon, there are really 2 things COVID-19 patients would need: testing and treatment.
The World Health Organization and every country in the world has been focusing on testing people. Diagnosis of COVID-19 requires a test that is confirmed by a central lab in a public hospital. Tests can be given via nasal swab at a clinic or a saliva sample given at home.
In Hong Kong, there are 2 types of tests being done:
- Antigen Test - this tests for the presence of Sars-CoV-2 inside your body
- Antibody Test - this tests for your immune response to see if you’ve had the virus before and have developed antibodies to fight it
Tests in Hong Kong cost HK$50 and results will be sent via message within 2-3 days.
If you test positive and receive a diagnosis for COVID-19, the treatment you get will depend on the severity of the case and the individual patient (ie. if you have underlying medical conditions that put you at higher risk).
According to the WHO, 80% of people recover without any special treatment but others may require hospitalization, respiratory therapy afterwards, and other services.
What Does Private Health Insurance Cover?
Luckily, most private insurance policies will cover the inpatient (ie. hospitalization/ICU) and outpatient (ie. respiratory therapy) costs arising from COVID-19 complications as they would for any other illness or injury. This ensures that your major costs are covered.
Many health insurers are also responding to COVID-19 and modifying their coverages to waive co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs for patients receiving coronavirus treatments. This includes adding coverage and removing pre-authorization for testing and diagnostics so that everyone who feels they need it can get access to testing.
In the long term, many health insurers are also adding coverage for COVID-19 vaccines if and when one is developed.
Many of these steps taken - especially by the insurers we work with - are taken voluntarily in an effort to contribute to the global battle against this pandemic. We’re proud of our insurance partners and of the steps they have taken to alleviate the financial and bureaucratic barriers to accessing timely testing, treatment, and prevention during this challenging time.
But these initiatives vary from insurer to insurer. To learn more about the changes made by your private health insurance company and to stay up to date with the latest changes, contact a Trusted Union health insurance specialist today for more info.