Health insurance in China

Before you leave, have you considered taking out insurance for China?

assurance sante chine

Whatever your situation and the reason for your stay – a new posting, a new professional opportunity, an internship, a university exchange or simply a vacation in China– it’s important to think about insurance. What do you need to know about China’s healthcare system? How to choose international health insurance for your trip to China?

Student insurance China

Insurance to cover your stay for your studies in China.



/ month

Expatriate insurance China

Health insurance to cover your expatriation to China.



/ month

China Travel Insurance

International health insurance to cover your trip to China.



/ trip

Any questions? Need advice?

Information on health insurance in China

assurance chine

Political system: People’s Republic
Capital: Beijing
Surface area: 9,596,960 sq. km
Population: 1.386 billion
Languages spoken: Mandarin
Currency: Yuan

China's healthcare system

China’s healthcare system relies heavily on its public sector. Over 60% of qualified doctors work in public hospitals or establishments. Ambulatory care is also administered in these health centers, which account for half of all healthcare expenditure. In China, the price of healthcare has skyrocketed due to economic and social reforms. Chinese families have been spending much more on healthcare since the 1980s. Access to health care is not free, but there are three types of locally managed public insurance schemes, which today cover over 95% of the population. However, out-of-pocket expenses remain very high. What’s more, there’s no possibility of changing insurance companies.

For more than 10 years, if you wish to expatriate to China to work, you will be obliged to join the Chinese national insurance scheme.

The healthcare system in Hong Kong is different from the rest of the country: health insurance is entirely state-funded, and neither the employer nor the employee pays any contributions. More than 40% of the Hong Kong population has supplementary health insurance. What’s more, this unique system is only accessible to holders of a Hong Kong identity card. Health care in Hong Kong is extremely well-developed, comparable to private-sector health care. If you seek medical care in Hong Kong, but do not have Hong Kong health insurance, healthcare costs will be very high. The fees charged by healthcare establishments are among the highest in the world. If you want to expatriate to Hong Kong, it’s essential to take out private health insurance to avoid going broke during your stay.

Local Chinese insurance

In China, the policy of access to healthcare for all is taken to the letter, which is why basic medical insurance comprises 3 different schemes:

  • The Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) scheme is available to salaried employees and self-employed workers on a voluntary basis;
  • The Urban Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) scheme covers children, the elderly and the unemployed living in urban areas.
  • The insurance scheme for people living in rural areas is the New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS).

There is also an exclusive scheme for civil servants, financed mainly by the government. Unlike the other plans, this one has neither a deductible nor an annual spending limit. Only the policyholder’s financial contribution is limited.

How do I consult a general practitioner or specialist in China?

The first level of healthcare is very weak in China, with over 90% of specialists and less than 10% of general practitioners. This is why the majority of Chinese go straight to the second tier of healthcare for whatever reason, i.e. hospitals. In China, you won’t find a family doctor who will take care of you and your family. The cost of a GP consultation in a public hospital is 50 CNY in a standard ward and 300 CNY in a Western-style or even VIP ward. A consultation with a general practitioner in a private hospital varies between 300 and 1200 CNY, depending on the urgency and condition of the patient. A consultation with a specialist doctor costs between 600 and 2100 CNY.

If you want to consult a general practitioner or specialist, go directly to the hospital, and if you have good private health insurance (which is recommended in China), go directly to the medical centers for foreigners. These establishments are often equipped with state-of-the-art technology, and the doctors who work there are likely to speak better English than those working in the public sector. Waiting times in the private sector are shorter than in the public sector, but healthcare costs are much higher.

Pharmacies in China

China is the world’s second-largest pharmaceutical market, so you’ll have no trouble finding medicines you used to buy in your home country. You can collect conventional medicines from convenience stores (7-Eleven, Circle-K, PARKnSHOP, Wellcome), pharmacies or healthcare establishments such as hospitals and clinics. In pharmacies, you’ll usually be asked whether you want traditional or modern medicines. For modern prescription medicines, we recommend that you collect them directly from the pharmacy of the hospital or clinic where you were treated.

There are a growing number of online pharmacies where you can buy medicines. It’s easy to find OTC (Over The Counter) medicines, which account for nearly 95% of the pharmaceutical market.

How do I see a dentist in China?

If you want to see a dentist, you can go to a large international dental clinic where you’ll be looked after by a dentist who’s guaranteed to speak English. The average cost of dental treatment will be higher than in a local hospital, but you’ll find it easier to make yourself understood, and the care you receive will undoubtedly be of very high quality. There are good specialists in local hospitals, but the likelihood of receiving quality care is lower. What’s more, you may well be confronted with a language barrier.

In the private sector, a consultation with a dentist will cost you between 260 and 460 CNY, while a crown will cost you between 6,300 and 7,200 CNY.

Emergency services in China

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, dial 110 as the first number to call, as it answers all emergency situations. You can also dial 119, which will put you directly in touch with the fire department and 120, the first aid and ambulance service. For traffic accidents, call 122.

Hospitals in China

In China, for any medical reason, it’s best to go to a hospital or clinic. There are several types of medical facility, both private and public:

  • Local hospitals
  • International hospitals
  • The clinics

Most expatriates go to international hospitals for treatment, as there are expatriate doctors practicing in these establishments. International hospitals are more expensive than local hospitals, here are some examples of average medical costs in a private hospital:

  • First outpatient visit: 1130-1840
  • Specialist consultation: 1930-2840
  • Outpatient emergency: 1450-2840
  • Ordinary hospitalization: 900-2000
  • Neonatal intensive care: 1,000
  • Urine pregnancy test: 110
  • Cost of bed in common room: 7000
  • Extra bed in superior suite: 13000 – 19000
  • MRI: 10000 – 15500
  • Natural childbirth: 66000
  • Cesarean delivery: 88,000

Paramedical care in China

Many physiotherapists work in hospitals and clinics. Chinese physiotherapists also practice traditional Chinese medicine, based on two theories: “the Yin / Yang theory” and “the theory of the five elements”. Given that Westerners have been inspired by the techniques of traditional Chinese medicine, some techniques may seem similar on paper, but the approach is totally different. Chinese physiotherapy is recognized as excellent and effective, so don’t hesitate to consult local specialists when you’re there. A private consultation costs around 800 CNY, and some complementary health insurance plans cover sessions but not universal coverage.

There are very few orthoptists in China; it’s a very underdeveloped profession. You’ll find a few expatriate orthoptists in major cities. However, you can get a pair of glasses made very easily and cheaply at opticians in working-class neighborhoods.

There are also many psychologists in China, working in hospitals and clinics. The cost of a psychology session in China is based on the experience of the practitioner you consult:

  • A newly qualified psychologist charges between 100 and 300 CYN ;
  • a psychologist who has been working for 2 years charges between 400 and 600 CYN, most of whom will have trained abroad, have some experience or have studied abroad;
  • a psychological counselor is more formal and may charge you an average of between 800 and 1,200 CYN. Some may charge up to 1,500 CYN. An advisor usually has advanced qualifications, general training and solid clinical experience.

Maternity in China, from pregnancy to childbirth

China has excellent international hospitals and qualified health care staff, so you can carry out your pregnancy without fear. You will be monitored during your pregnancy by an obstetrician or gynecologist. In China, hospitals will offer you “packages” covering all the consultations, examinations and tests you will have during your pregnancy. That way, you’ll have a clearer picture of your pregnancy schedule and budget.

Birth preparation can sometimes be non-existent, as not all hospitals offer it. In China, Caesarean delivery is prioritized over natural or epidural delivery. Remember to be clear about how you want to give birth.

If you plan to give birth in a private international hospital, you’ll enjoy hotel-like service. The quality of modern equipment and service is excellent. On the other hand, it’s imperative to choose your health insurance carefully, as childbirth alone can cost up to 70,000 CYN, or almost 10,500 USD. In addition, you must have “direct billing”, i.e. your insurance pays your expenses directly to the hospital where you gave birth.

In a private hospital, the cost of a vaginal delivery is CYN 70,000, and a Caesarean delivery CYN 90,000, or USD 10,000 and USD 13,600 respectively.

Pediatric service in China

Many hospitals and clinics have dedicated pediatric wards, and there are many pediatricians practicing in China. The cost of a consultation with a pediatrician is around 100 CYN. However, the cost of consultations has been rising recently. To consult a pediatrician, go directly to a hospital and head for the pediatric ward. You can also book a consultation on the hospital website.

What vaccinations should I have before leaving for China?

For any length of stay in China, you must be vaccinated against hepatitis A. For longer stays, over 90 days, for expatriation, internship or school semester, it is more than recommended to be vaccinated against :

  • Japanese encephalitis;
  • Tick-borne encephalitis ;
  • Hepatitis B;
  • Typhoid.

Malaria has been eliminated from the territory in 2019, so there’s no risk of you contracting it in China.

Why take out health insurance before a stay or expatriation in China?

It is imperative that you take out health insurance so that you can seek treatment in the private sector should the need arise. Indeed, the shortage of GPs continues to affect China (around 1 GP for every 23,000 patients), and even more so in the public than in the private sector. It’s in the private sector that you’ll be able to consult a GP more quickly, without having to wait weeks or months. To protect yourself against high medical costs, it is highly recommended to take out private health insurance such as Gold Expat, which will cover 100% of the most expensive medical expenses such as hospitalization.

What international health insurance should I take out in China, and for whom?

More and more students and active people are moving to China, either to spend a semester abroad or simply to work there on a long-term basis.

  • Are you a student interested in spending a semester or part of your studies in China? Don’t forget to take out international health insurance! The Chinese government requires students wishing to study in China to have health insurance. What’s more, insurance such as Gold Student will cover you against expensive private medical expenses. To benefit from the best healthcare in the country, it’s essential that you have private healthcare coverage. Our Gold Student insurance covers you for 100% of hospital and medical expenses.
  • If you are an expatriate employee, entrepreneur or digital nomad, we strongly recommend that you take out expatriate health insurance such as Gold Expat or
    Gold Start
    . As a salaried employee in China, you will have to join the Chinese social security system. Good news? Not necessarily, as Chinese social security is very limited. Be careful, as reimbursement rates are very low for medical services covered by social security. Nine times out of ten, in the case of a major operation such as hospitalization, the out-of-pocket expenses will be extremely high. Especially if you are hospitalized privately.
  • Are you planning to visit China as a tourist? It is highly recommended that you take out health insurance to cover private care. Accessing a general practitioner in the public sector at short notice is extremely complicated due to the shortage of doctors in China. So to avoid ruining your vacation, our experts recommend that you take out travel insurance such as Travel Pass.
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