On April 1st, 2019, the Hong Kong government’s Food and Health Bureau (FHB) implemented the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS). The purpose of this scheme is to regulate inpatient insurance plans offered to individuals. But like any new plan, you might have questions about it – luckily, we have answers.
What is the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme and what does it cover?
It basically creates what they’re calling “Certified Plans” by certifying insurance plans that cover hospital expenses (inpatient plans).
That means it does not apply to outpatient plans, critical illness or “hospital cash” plans, or group insurance purchased by employers to cover their employees.
What is the point of the VHIS?
The stated objectives of the VHIS are 3 fold:
• To enhance the protection of inpatient plans
• To give the public more choice of private healthcare
• To relieve pressure on the public healthcare system
Which insurance companies are participating?
There is a list of participating insurance companies on the VHIS website updated regularly.
What are Certified Plans and what does it mean when a plan is “certified”?
That means the HK Food and Health Bureau has determined that the plan meets their criteria such as:
- Standardised policy terms/conditions
- Guaranteed renewal until age 100 unless important information was not disclosed on the application form
- No lifetime benefit limit
- More comprehensive benefits including...
- Unknown pre-existing conditions
- Congenital conditions
- Prescribed non-surgical cancer treatments
- Psychiatric inpatient treatment
5. Premium schedules are posted on the website
What types of Certified Plans are available? What are my choices?
Standard Plan: benefits and terms are standardized and they meet the minimum requirements
Flexi Plans: in addition to what’s provided by the Standard Plan, it has a flexible top-up protection
What are the benefits of a Certified Plan?
All insurance businesses in Hong Kong are regulated by the Insurance Authority but providers of Certified Plans have to comply with extra product requirements and practices set by the Food and Health Bureau.
Do I have to buy a VHIS Certified Plans?
No, it’s totally voluntary and not all insurance plans have to be certified.
Are there restrictions on which doctor or hospital I can go to?
You are free to choose your hospital/doctor but Flexi Plans might be limited to a network of hospitals/doctors.
Will it cover public hospital charges?
Yes it will.
Does it cover dental treatment?
The Standard Plan will cover emergency dental treatment and surgery due to an accident. Flexi Plans may offer extra inpatient and outpatient dental coverage as part of the top-up.
Will it cover hospitals outside of Hong Kong?
Yes it will, except for psychiatric treatments.
How much will Certified Plans cost?
The FHB does not regulate premiums but prices are transparent and posted on the insurance companies’ websites. But in general, they will vary based on age and gender.
Can they charge extra or add exclusions for pre-existing conditions?
Yes, they can apply a loading on your premium for pre-existing conditions or lifestyle factors such as smoking, family medical history or occupational hazard.
Is there guaranteed acceptance for Certified Plans?
No, insurers can decline your application in accordance with the VHIS Code of Practice.
Can I get a Certified Plan if I am not a Hong Kong resident?
The insured person must be a Hong Kong resident for the tax deduction. Insurers must consider applications for residents between 15 days and 80 years old but it’s up to the insurer to decide whether they want to accept the application or not.
How do I buy a Certified Plan?
Contact a licensed Trusted Union insurance advisor to get an overview of which insurers offer VHIS Certified Plans and a breakdown of the pros and cons of each. We are here to help you make an informed and unrushed decision.
How do I switch to a Certified Plan?
If your insurer offers Certified Plans, they are required to offer migration for all individual hospital indemnity insurance policyholders. They can either switch you over on renewal or change it mid-term (but you will need to complete another application and can be rejected).
Contact your licensed Trusted Union insurance advisor to get the process started.
What if I change my mind?
There is a cooling off period of at least 21 days during which you can cancel the plan provided no claim has been made.