Hong Kong has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Doctors are extremely well qualified and facilities provide a very high level of care. However, this comes at a cost. Healthcare services are extremely expensive for anyone who is not eligible for the local government-sponsored public healthcare system, and those who prefer to be treated at a private hospital.
Many expats find that they benefit greatly from purchasing a private medical insurance plan. This protects your peace of mind in that you can receive the best healthcare without straining your finances. It also unlocks numerous options so you can receive care that best meets your needs. This page offers important tips and considerations for finding expatriate health insurance that is right for you.
Public Healthcare in Hong Kong
The public healthcare system in Hong Kong is financed by the state and offers highly subsidized services. Records from the Hong Kong Hospital Authority show that the city has 43 public hospitals and institutions, 49 specialist outpatient centers, and 73 general outpatient clinics. Services are eligible to Hong Kong citizens, permanent residents, and expats who have a valid visa and Hong Kong ID. The quality of medical services in the HK public system is very high and facilities are equipped with modern equipment. Most hospitals provide emergency and accident services round the clock. A number of facilities offer maternity services. Public facilities only offer emergency dental services, so you’ll need the attention of a private doctor for anything else. While the public healthcare system in HK is very good and almost free of charge, it is notorious for its long queues and less than flexible visiting hours.
Private Healthcare in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a robust network of 12 private hospitals, along with countless private outpatient facilities, specialist clinics, and diagnostic centers. Each one of the 12 private healthcare providers is internationally accredited and maintains high service standards. The benefits of private healthcare in Hong Kong include shorter waiting times and the flexibility to choose your doctor. Tests, treatment, and surgeries are set up much quicker compared to the public system. Many private providers also have at least a section of their staff speaking English, which can help ease the communication barrier for patients who originate from many Western countries. Private healthcare facilities tend to offer a more comfortable and patient-centric experience, including better rooms and food options. Keep in mind though that private healthcare can be extraordinarily expensive in Hong Kong. Costs can run into thousands of dollars especially if you need surgery, complex tests, and treatments, specialized dental services, or maternity services.
Why Expatriate Health Insurance in HK?
In addition to providing comprehensive medical coverage, expatriate health insurance in Hong Kong offers many unique benefits.
1. Avoid queues and language barriers
Being an expat comes with many challenges, but receiving efficient medical care when you need it should not be one of them. Purchasing a private health insurance plan means that you can receive care at a private hospital of your choosing. Waiting times are much shorter compared to the public healthcare system, and many private provides maintain a high proportion of English-speaking staff. Furthermore, medical services at private clinics seem to be designed to ensure a comfortable patient experience.
2. Receive treatment at a facility of your choice
Many expat health insurance plans allow you to seek medical treatment at any hospital in Hong Kong. You can set appointments with a doctor of your choosing, which can in turn help build trust and ensure a better understanding of your care needs.
3. Better quality of care
Hong Kong public hospitals are equipped with modern equipment and staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff. However, the quality of care often suffers due to overburdening. Getting an expat health insurance plan means you can seek treatment at a private hospital with internationally trained doctors and staff who try to deliver a world-class quality of service in a very competitive market.
4. Retain tailor-made health coverage
Individual health insurance plans for expatriates are not set in stone. All insurers allow policyholders to customize policy options so they can choose the coverage that meets their needs. Your health insurance plan can take into account multiple factors, including your age, travel requirements, pre-existing conditions, and more.
Employer-Provided vs Private Health Insurance in Hong Kong
Many employers in Hong Kong purchase group health insurance plans to contribute to their employees’ medical coverage. This can help offset the cost of treatment at private hospitals and clinics. However, keep in mind that employer insurance packages vary widely and should be reviewed individually. Some packages may not cover maternity or specialized dental services. If the health insurance plan provided by the employer is not comprehensive enough to meet your unique coverage needs, purchasing an individual expat health insurance plan can help fill the gap.
Local vs International Health Insurance Plans for Expats
Expats may choose between a local and international health insurance policy to suit their coverage needs. Local plans provide medical coverage within Hong Kong and are often much cheaper than global plans. However, if you are someone who travels quite frequently, you may need a medical insurance plan that has an international scope. An international health insurance plan will usually cover the cost of medical care regardless of your location in the world, even if you have returned to your home country. Local health insurance plans usually have a cap on the age at which you can renew the policy. Many international health insurance plans in Hong Kong are guaranteed renewable for life.
What Will my Expatriate Health Insurance Cover?
Expats are able to choose what kind of coverage (for medical services) they receive from their local or international health insurance plan. Options available include the following:
- Inpatient coverage - this is the most basic type of private health insurance coverage. It pays out benefits for medical services when admitted to a hospital. An inpatient plan will take care of medical expenses such as pre-operative and advanced diagnostic tests, treatment costs, post-hospital follow-up visits, and more. It will also pay for the treatment of cancer, any surgery that is medically necessary, and organ or tissue transplants.
- Outpatient coverage - this type of coverage is a level above inpatient coverage and is the most important type of health insurance in Hong Kong for both locals and expatriates. Outpatient coverage pays for all the services included in an inpatient plan along with additional coverage for specialist visits, diagnostics, prescription drugs taken while at home, and rehabilitation or physiotherapy. Preventive health check-ups and vaccinations are typically also covered.
- Maternity coverage - maternity health insurance includes the benefits covered with inpatient and outpatient plans along with coverage for maternity treatment and checkups, maternity complications such as emergency C-Section, and treatment costs for newborns. This type of insurance will essentially cover all the costs associated with the policyholder’s pregnancy and childbirth. Keep in mind though that maternity plans come with a waiting period between when you start to pay premiums and when you can claim benefits.
- Dental coverage - many private health insurance policies in Hong Kong do not pay for dental services. You may purchase dental insurance as an individual plan (which can be costly) or add it to an existing health insurance plan at a small fee. Hong Kong’s health insurers offer two types of dental insurance: routine treatment and major treatment. Routine treatment plans take care of preventative services such as annual check-ups and cleanings while major treatment coverage will pay for pretty much everything (including periodontitis, bridges, fillings, crowns, gingivitis, gold jackets, and more).
Other provisions, such as coverage for alternative therapy and chronic and pre-existing conditions are also available. Regardless of the health insurance company you chose to work with, you will be able to select a medical plan that is customized to your unique needs and coverage preferences.