Expatriate health insurance in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong health insurance brochure

Expatriate insurers rank Hong Kong in the top three most expensive countries in the world. The Hong Kong healthcare system is particularly efficient, and care can be of very high quality, but this excellence comes at a cost. Depending on your status, location, coverage limits, and the type of care you’re seeking, expat insurance will be a valuable ally.


Key figures for health insurance
in Hong Kong

Key figures for health insurance in Hong Kong
Healthcare expenditure per capita €1250
Annual indexation of health expenses 8,3%
Hospitalization reimbursement rate with Fund for French Aborad 19%
Number of insurance companies available 12
Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 30-year-old €1068
Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 50-year-old €1884

The Healthcare System in Hong Kong

Healthcare coverage, according to your status and choice of healthcare provider.

There are different levels of healthcare costs in Hong Kong. Depending on your status, the costs will vary greatly between public care for residents, public care for non-residents, and private care.

There is a public system and a private system in Hong Kong. Both offer similar services, with state-of-the-art equipment and qualified staff. There are 42 public and 12 private hospitals (+87 private clinics) in Hong Kong, open to all residents and non-residents.

Public coverage, based on the principles of the British National Healthcare System (a colonial legacy), makes healthcare costs almost free of charge, thanks to a government subsidy (without any employer or employee contribution). However, these subsidized public rates are only available to Hong Kong residents. You need to have a Hong Kong identity card to be eligible (you will pay three to ten times as much for the same services in the public sector as a non-resident).

Expatriates and foreigners generally go to private clinics, which, despite their high fees, offer a wider choice of practitioners, personalized care (with a wider variety of languages spoken, for example), and, above all, shorter waiting times. Indeed, waiting times in the public sector can reach more than 10 months for a hospitalization (hospitals being overloaded). Not to mention the shortage of personnel that is felt increasingly each year, with the majority of physicians practicing in the private sector.

For example, in 2018 there was an average wait of between nine and 29 months for cataract surgery, depending on the public hospital requested. For an urgent pediatric consultation, the delay can be as long as a week in a public hospital, and up to seven weeks for less urgent cases – even more than a year for a classic check-up.

In general, medical fees and medication provided in public facilities are cheaper than those in private facilities, to make care accessible to the average person. This system generates significant medical tourism, mainly from China.

In the public sector, a consultation will cost between 200 and 650 HKD (from €22 to €73), depending on the practitioner (generalist or specialist). In the private sector, a consultation with a general practitioner will cost on average 350 HKD, with rates varying between 250 and 600 HKD (from €28 to €67), or between 400 and 1,500 HKD (from €45 to €170) for a specialist.

Admission to a public emergency room will cost visitors 1,230 HKD (€138), but resients only 180 HKD (€20). You will be taken care of even if you can't pay the fee immediately. Hospitalization in a shared room will be 100 HKD (€11.30) per day. If you don't want to be placed in a shared room, you will automatically be considered a private client, even if you are in a public hospital.

There are very few private rooms in public hospitals, and the cost of hospitalization will be indexed by the type of room chosen. Indeed, physicians' fees are directly linked to the room rate, and whether the room is private, semi-private, or shared. The average cost of a private room is from 1,600 to 6,500 HKD per day (€180 to €730).

Depending on the hospital and whether or not you’re a resident, your costs for hospitalization can reach 30,000 HKD to 40,000 HKD (€3,370 to €4,500). As a further example, the cost of each day in intensive care in a private hospital will come to about 15,350 HKD (€1,700).

The most costly health expenses (except hospitalization) are generally: maternity and dental. There are about 2,500 dentists in Hong Kong, and 443 dental hygienists. It will cost you between 500 HKD and 1,000 HKD (€56 to €112) for a cleaning with consultation, and from 7,000 HKD to 17,000 HKD (€790 to €1,900) for a crown replacement. Maternity expenses can easily reach 100,000 HKD (€11,300). The reason these costs are so high is that they are rarely covered by employer insurance.

Coverage of vision and dental expenses

Expatriate insurance will help you absorb the costs mentioned above (between 500 HKD and 1,000 HKD for a dental cleaning with consultation, and from 7,000 HKD to 17,000 HKD for a crown replacement).

However, for small budgets, we advise you to make get vision and dental check-ups before leaving and take care of any necessary preventive care.

It may not be necessary to choose health insurance that includes vision and dental expenses, at least not during the first two years of expatriation.

Hong Kong and everyday healthcare

Most medicine is available in pharmacies and community dispensaries.

If you have a specific medication, it’s better to take three months of that medication with you to cover you until you can find the equivalent in Hong Kong.

Also, you can build up a small pharmacy kit with basic medicine such as paracetamol, acne cream, etc., as they are very expensive in Hong Kong.

Concerning vaccines, there are no mandatory ones for Hong Kong, but the main vaccines such as DTP and tuberculosis are recommended. We also recommend mosquito repellent.

The emergency number in Hong Kong is 999 (for police, fire, and ambulance).

If you have an emergency, the ambulance service is provided by the public system or by NGOs.

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Local Healthcare Coverage in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Social Welfare System

There is no real social-welfare system for expats in Hong Kong.

The state subsidizes the public health system without any contribution from employers or employees. There is therefore a principle of universal access to health care, but it is limited to residents holding Hong Kong identity cards.

Public hospitalization services are in great demand, but there is less demand for routine medical care in the public sector due to the long waiting times.

Scams, corruption, and overcharging

If healthcare here is certainly among the best in the world, it is also one of the most corrupt systems, and it is easy for an expatriate to be, at best, ripped off of a few thousand euros, at worst to be operated on without need.

Cases of overcharging are frequent, which is why expatriate insurers generally ask major costs to be agreed in advance. A lesser degree of overcharging are the numerous tests prescribed only to raise the bills; as each test, medication, or additional intervention contributes to raising the final cost of the consultation. It is possible to ask for an estimate beforehand, hoping that the physician won’t “detect” anything that requires additional tests during the consultation.

In some cases, this can be more serious, as in the case of one of our policy holders. At the age of forty-five, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. After the emergency care, the hospital physician wanted to perform several major interventions on him for a total cost of 0,000. The assistance provider called the local provider to validate the diagnoses, and the physician accredited by the local assistance provider validated them – but the French physician had doubts. He contacted specialists who confirmed these doubts. The assistance company then sent a medical team of three people on site to bring the patient back to his country of origin. He was hospitalized there for about 10 days and was able to leave for Hong Kong one month later without having to undergo all the surgeries planned in Hong Kong.

Local insurance in Hong Kong

Local health insurance companies calculate their rates based on the average medical costs of an individual, and then adjust the premium based on medical history and the number of claims made.

These local policies are not renewable by tacit agreement. You must renew your membership each year, submitting a new medical questionnaire. This means that you not only have to bear the additional costs of mounting claims and health history each year, but also the risk of being refused coverage altogether.

This is one of the main reasons why expatriate insurance is recommended. Indeed, expatriate contracts under French or Luxembourgish law are tacitly renewed. Your contract cannot be terminated because you “cost too much” or your medical history becomes “too cumbersome.” The medical selection is made only once, when you sign up (unless you request a change of coverage).

Expatriate health insurance plans are also often preferred to group contracts, as the latter often impose a specific healthcare network, limited coverage and maximums, and do not cover outside Hong Kong. These networks can be very restrictive in terms of choice of practitioner; and if you don’t consult the ones recommended, you will lose a large part of your reimbursement, or receive none at all depending on the type of care.

An expatriate insurance policy leaves you free to choose the place of care and the practitioner, and will allow you to be covered when you travel to neighboring countries, as well as when you return to your country of origin.

Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Hong Kong

Chinese medicine and acupuncture are formally recognized and supervised by the State.

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities offer these alternative treatments, which are very popular with the local population. There are 7,425 physicians practicing Chinese medicine, out of 14,290 physicians in total (2017 figures).


Choosing expatriate insurance in Hong Kong

Why sign up?

The high cost of healthcare makes it essential to purchase expatriate health insurance in Hong Kong, whether or not you are a CFE member.

This expatriate insurance will allow you to freely choose your physician and will ensure 100% reimbursement of expenses incurred in the case of hospitalization. It also guarantees you international health coverage beyond your country of residence. You can therefore be reimbursed for care provided during a trip to Thailand, for example, or when you return to your home country from time to time and consult your trusted physicians.

When and how to sign up

Signing up for expatriate coverage is more complex than for a traditional health insurance. We advise applying about 30 days before your departure.

Our website will let you request a quote online and compare coverage options.

An adviser can then help you with the entire sign-up process.

Which coverage should I choose?

Given the cost of healthcare, you should ideally choose an average plan or plan with some extra benefits to ensure you’ll be properly reimbursed for consultations.

For tighter budgets, we recommend:

- An economical plan including hospitalization and routine care coverage with either a fixed deductible or a 10% deductible on certain expenses, and no vision or dental care coverage. This will fully reimburse hospitalization costs and very adequately reimburse examinations and pharmacy visits.
- For smaller budgets, only hospitalization coverage, because it is the essential minimum needed to avoid finding oneself in great financial difficulty.

Do I have to pay up front?

If you are hospitalized for more than 24 hours, your insurer can generally arrange direct payment.

In all other cases, you will have to pay up front. Today, insurers allow you to send your claims for moderate amounts (less than €500 per bill) either directly via a mobile app, or via a customer service page, or sometimes by email.

It is no longer necessary to transmit original invoices for standard care and digital transmission (for invoices up to €1,000) generally guarantees the shortest processing times.

Repatriation assistance

The quality of care in Hong Kong is excellent. You won’t need to resort to medical repatriation to be correctly cared for. The situation will be different if you take advantage of your presence in the region to visit the neighboring countries of Southeast Asia, though, such as Laos. Repatriation assistance will be very useful in this case.

An adviser can also help you to find a physician or a health center, or even reduce the cost of medical expenses thanks to discounted agreements.

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