Healthcare in China

Expats moving to China will find that the standard of healthcare provision varies greatly. While those living in urban areas usually have good access to both public and private hospitals, medical services are much more limited in rural parts of the country. Healthcare services tend to centre around hospitals rather than local clinics.

International Healthcare Solutions For Private Individuals

Healthcare plans designed specifically for expatriates and local nationals living in China.

Public medical institutions in China are not often used by expats. Waiting times can be long, and long queues to see a doctor are a common sight at public hospitals. Apart from the language barrier and the slow service, however, the quality of medical expertise generally compares quite favourably to Western medical standards.

In some public hospitals, particularly those in major Chinese cities, international wings have been established to bridge the gap between public and private healthcare. Also known as VIP wards, these areas are more expensive than regular public wards but still considerably cheaper than private hospitals. As these wings cater for wealthier patients, the treatment tends to be of a higher standard and medical staff can usually speak English.

Public health insurance in China is mediocre and not particularly comprehensive. It can be fairly expensive, even for basic policies that don’t cover serious and chronic conditions. For this reason, private health insurance is the best option for expats.

Expats should also be sure to ascertain which hospitals their insurance covers. Not all hospitals recognise all insurers, which is why expats should do some research before committing to a health insurance policy.

Most expats living in China opt to use private hospitals, which are generally only found in major metropolitan areas. While private healthcare services are certainly more expensive than those in the public healthcare sector, they tend to be closer to the standard found in Europe or North America, and in some cases, the quality of treatment can be as good or even better than expats would expect back home. Most medical staff speak English, with many having received training in Europe and North America.

There is usually at least one 24-hour pharmacy available in major cities. Larger, department-style pharmacies can be found in metropolitan areas. On occasion, expats might find labels that are only in the local language or pharmacists who don’t speak English. It’s a good idea to enlist help from a local friend who can translate, but if this isn’t possible, expats should write down the local name of the medication they are looking for.

Some medicines may have extensive requirements and restrictions when being brought into the country. Expats should investigate this before attempting to bring any medications into China.

There are some health-related issues to bear in mind when moving to China, with air pollution in the bigger cities being one of the most concerning. For expats who suffer from respiratory conditions, it is advisable to invest in a home air purifier.

Water pollution is also a problem. Expats are advised not to drink tap water in China and to rinse fruit and vegetables with boiled water. Purchasing and using only filtered water is the best way to avoid water-borne illnesses.

Expats should ensure that they are up to date with their routine vaccinations before travelling to China. There are also specific vaccines that are recommended for all travellers, such as those for Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever and rabies, among others. Up-to-date Covid vaccinations are also recommended.

Depending on where expats choose to live in China, most medical emergencies can be handled quickly and efficiently. Some rural areas have very limited emergency services, but urban areas are generally well serviced.

Due to a shortage of ambulances, private ‘black’ ambulances have emerged. These are mostly unlicensed and unauthorised vehicles, and expats are advised to avoid them.

Emergency response personnel are well trained and professional, but might not speak English. Expats should make an effort to learn basic key phrases in the local language for medical emergencies.

The local medical emergency number is 120. Expats should also be sure to have the contact details of their nearest embassy easily accessible in case of an emergency.

Our plans, created in partnership with Allianz Jingdong General Insurance Company Ltd. are designed for international and local Chinese companies.