Last Updated on by Rodrigo @ OutofYourComfortZone
Are you an expat in China? Or have plans to go and work in one of the greatest economic powerhouses in the world? Do you know how the healthcare system works and what type of health insurance you need to be covered in China? Read on below for all the details.
Moving overseas can be a big decision. Especially when you consider all the new culture, customs, languages, and even systems you’ll have to adapt to!
That’s why it’s important to do your research upfront so you’re fully prepared for your new life.
One important thing to do your research on as a new expat in China is international health insurance.
But before we get to the list of the best health insurance providers for immigrants in China, let’s cover some other info about the health insurance in China and the Chinese health system that you need to know.
What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance?
If you’ve done any traveling, you’ve probably gotten a travel insurance policy before. Beyond medical coverage, travel insurance policies also often provide extra coverage ‒ such as compensation for lost baggage or canceled flights.
But it’s important to remember that travel insurance is not made for expats. Because although it is possible to get travel insurance that covers you for long periods of time overseas, it shouldn’t be used for a long stay in a single country.
In other words, it’s not valid in a country that someone is a resident in.
Because of this, you want to find a health insurance policy that’s specifically made for expats or individuals who aren’t just traveling. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in this article with my list of the best health insurance policies for expats in China.
Why bother getting an international health insurance plan to immigrate to China?
Although having an insurance policy isn’t a requirement for someone entering China, it’s still recommended that you get one. Because at the end of the day, you’ll be in a country totally different from your own, with rules and laws that you don’t know, and perhaps even a language that you haven’t mastered.
Because of this, one of the greatest advantages of an international health insurance policy is that, beyond medical coverage, they’ll also offer all the support you need so you don’t have to worry about your health.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about language barriers since you can speak directly with your insurance provider in English and get recommendations on where to go if you need to seek medical care.
How does the Chinese healthcare system work?
Now that you know what type of health insurance is ideal for expats in China, you need to know a bit about how the healthcare system works.
China has a public healthcare system. However, this system isn’t always free and there are some services that even Chinese citizens have to pay for. Foreign residents and expats in the country also have access to this service as long as they are registered.
But given that you’ll be in a country with more than 1.5 billion inhabitants, you’re not going to find the best public healthcare in the world. This becomes even more apparent outside the big cities.
That’s why a portion of the population, especially immigrants, choose to get private health insurance instead.
For more information on the types of visas you can apply for to live, study, and work in China, continue reading the article after the list of the best international health insurance policies for expats and immigrants in China.
Who do these international health insurance services cover?
These insurance companies work for these citizens who live in China as expatriates, immigrants (or even students):
- European Union Citizens (French, Germans, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Belgian, Swedes..)
- British people (English, Scottish, Welsh, etc…)
- New Zealanders
And for citizens of almost every other country
In addition to expatriates/immigrants residing in China, these insurances are for residents living in:
- Europe (European Union, United Kingdom, Russia, etc…)
And for expats living in almost any other country in the world
Overall, these international health plans can essentially be used any citizen in almost any country in the world as they are a global services with global coverage.
What are the 7 best health insurance providers for expats and immigrants in China?
As I recommend every time, make an online quote with all the options I suggest here and then compare prices and coverage. Although it takes a little time, you could end up saving a lot of money and better understanding the terms of your plan.
Now let’s get to know the best international health insurance and what I consider to be positive and negative about each of them. The list is:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
After the list you will find more information about each insurance company and details about their service in the comparison table, so keep reading!
The first insurance provider on our list today is Cigna. Cigna is a company from the United States that is also present in many European countries. And I’d say that they are one of the best options out there when it comes to international health insurance policies.
With more than 60 years in the business, Cigna is an insurance giant that has more than 170 million clients around the world. Nikki (my partner) was even one of these millions of clients herself when she needed a health insurance plan to get her residence card in Sweden.
Cigna has a wide variety of plans, including for immigrants in China.
If this sounds like you, you can choose from individual or family plans. And one nice benefit of working with Cigna is that their plans are very flexible. They let you customize and add benefits based on exactly what coverage you need.
Cigna’s main plans are the Silver, Gold, or Platinum plan. Each of these plans will give you very complete coverage in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
An alternative to these plans is the “Close Care” plan, which is a more budget-friendly plan that only covers clients in their origin country and the country they currently reside in.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- They have 24/7 customer service
- Their plans are flexible and fully customizable
- They offer Covid-19 coverage, including PCR tests
- You don’t need to sign up to get a quote
- You get access to an online portal to see the nearest hospitals that Cigna has coverage at
- In most cases, you don’t pay the healthcare provider directly (Cigna pays them directly for your consultation so you don’t have to request reimbursement)
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Not all of their plans cover maternity care
Another company that stands out in the world of insurance is IMG. IMG has more than 25 years of experience and currently has 3 subsidiaries around the world.
One benefit of IMG is that its website is very detailed and features 24/7 customer service in 17 languages.
They have a ton of plans to choose from, whether for families or individual immigrants. They have several plans created around specific needs, such as for immigrants and expats.
If you’re moving to China, you can choose from long-term plans with 1-year minimums that can be renewed as needed. However, you can also find shorter plans if you don’t plan to be overseas for long.
On their website, it’s very easy to search for the plan that’s right for you by filtering with the dates and plan length you’re looking for, your destination, your age, and other personal details.
Because of this, IMG can give you a detailed quote and point out which plans and specific coverage limits would be the best option for you.
But do pay careful attention to the details of each plan since IMG doesn’t have plans for all ages.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Multilingual 24/7 customer service
- They have very flexible plans
- Their network includes more than 17,000 doctors around the world
- You can adjust your plan benefits based on what you need coverage for (with 5 plans in total for you to choose from)
- COVID-19 is considered by the company as any other illness or injury
Cons of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- They don’t offer plans for travelers above 75
3. Aetna (acquired by Allianz)
As a winner of awards like “Best International Provider for Private Health Insurance,” Aetna is another high-quality insurance option to consider before your move to China.
Although Aetna doesn’t have many plans to choose from, the ones you can choose from are very flexible and give you the ability to add complementary coverage like dental care. Beyond this, their plans offer great coverage…sometimes up to 5 million U.S. dollars!
All of their plans have the option of extending coverage to your family, and medical evacuations and repatriations are always included.
For immigrants, I recommend the Aetna Pioneer plan, which offers a minimum coverage of 1.75 million dollars. If you’re interested, just fill out your info on their website to get an exact quote and see the specific details of the coverage.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- They cover maternal care expenses
- They have an easy-to-use app available to help you find nearby providers
- They offer short- and long-term plans
- They offer pre-trip support where you can ask questions (such as questions about regularly-used medications or vaccines)
- 24/7 customer service
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- They have few plans available and they do tend to be a little more expensive compared to the other options on this list
With more than 20 years of experience, GeoBlue is another big name in international health insurance.
However, it’s important to note that GeoBlue does not offer insurance plans to residents of New York and Washington. So if this applies to you, then I’d recommend moving on to the next choice on our list.
That said, GeoBlue has a few different plans to choose from based on why you’re traveling, including immigration. As an immigrant in China, the plan I recommend is the Xplorer Essential, which is a long-term plan that offers unlimited coverage and includes pre-existing conditions.
Or if you’d rather have a short-term plan, Voyager is worth taking a look at too.
To see more details about the plans and get detailed pricing, you’ll have to fill out the form online and wait to be contacted by a consultant (which is a little annoying, if you ask me).
Pros of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Some plans offer unlimited coverage plus coverage for pre-existing conditions
- Access to an app and various other tools, such as telemedicine
- 24/7 customer support
Cons of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Not available to residents of New York and Washington
- Their plans aren’t very flexible or customizable
- You need to speak directly with an insurance consultant to get a quote
SafetyWing is one of the most popular insurance options for travelers digital nomads as they offer plans made especially for remote workers, immigrants, digital nomads, and companies.
One thing that makes SafetyWing stand out is its quirky brand with a website that’s modern, simple, and offers all the info you need to know.
Another benefit of SafetyWing is that they tend to be a little cheaper than the other options out there, beyond offering free coverage to children under 10 on your plan.
The cost of your plan will vary based on your age group. The cheapest plan they have offers coverage up to 250,000 USD (but it doesn’t include coverage for pre-existing conditions). However, you can pay more for pre-existing condition coverage if you need it.
Not to mention that for every 90 days you pay for coverage in China, you’ll get 30 days of coverage for free in your home country.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- The website is very friendly, modern, and it’s easy to find all the information you need
- 24/7 customer service
- You get 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of your plan that you spend overseas
- They offer coverage for Covid-19 treatment if requested by a doctor
Cons of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Their plans aren’t quite as complete as the others on this list
- The prices you see on their website don’t include taxes and fees (you’ll have to create an account and add in your personal details to see an exact final quote)
Foyer Global Health is an insurance company that specializes in international health plans for travelers, immigrants, digital nomads, and expats. As part of the European conglomerate Foyer Group, Foyer Global Health is well-established in the field of insurance.
Beyond a well-known and trustworthy company, Foyer Global Health also offers a ton of different plans to choose from.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- All of their plans cover dental surgeries, appointments, and treatments
- 24/7 customer service by email, phone, and online chat
- They offer evacuation and repatriation services
- They offer pre-trip advice on vaccinations and the preparation of a first aid kit
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- Their website doesn’t make their coverage limit very clear
Global Underwriters is another large company in the world of insurance. With their variety of plans, they offer coverage for immigrants, students, digital nomads, and expats that are going to be beginning a new life in another country.
For immigrants in China, I recommend the Diplomat Long Term or Diplomat International. Both of these offer complete coverage and work well for what an expat needs.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to USD $1,000,000 available in medical coverage in the plans cited above (plus USD 1,000,000 in coverage for accidental death and dismemberment)
- 24/7 customer support
- The Diplomat Long Term and the Diplomat International plans offer coverage for emergency dental care, repatriation of mortal remains, and medical evacuations
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- The Diplomat Long Term plan doesn’t cover trips to Iran, Afghanistan, or Cuba
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t cover Covid-19 treatment
- They don’t offer coverage to residents of Australia, Iran, New York, Maryland, or South Dakota
Comparative table with the 7 best international health insurances for immigrants in China
To make your choice easier, take a look at the table below with a comparison of the health insurance we’ve listed above.
In this way, you will be able to see in a simple way the positive and negative sides of each insurance and which will best suit your profile.
|Get a Quote||Get a Quote|
|Medical Maximum||Unlimited (for the Platinum plan)||$8,000,000||The site doesn’t specify||Unlimited||US$1,000,000 per year||The site doesn’t specify||$1,000,000|
|U.S. In-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||100%||No||60% for maximum coinsurance and then 100%||Yes, for higher fees||Only in emergencies||Yes|
|U.S. Out-of-Network Coinsurance||You choose. From 70%(100% thereafter) to 100%||90% to $5,000 (100% thereafter)||Yes, for higher fees||100%||100%||100%||100%|
|Mental Health Availability||No waiting period||12-month waiting period||Co-payment of $25 per visit, waived deductible||75% up to 40 visits / 60% after that||No||Waiting period of 10 months||Depends on the plan|
|Mental Health Benefit||Inpatient and Outpatient: $5,000 lifetime maximum to paid in full depending on the plan||Inpatient and Outpatient: $50,000 lifetime maximum||Co-payment of $250 after deductible||100% up to 60 days||International and ambulance: limit not specified|
|Inpatient Prescription Drugs||$500 to paid in full depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Outpatient Prescription Drugs||None, unless you buy the International Outpatient Option||Up to $8,000,000||Complete reimbursement||Yes||Yes|
|Evacuation and Repatriation of Remains||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Yes||Up to $25,000||No||Up to 10,000 euros||Yes|
|Accidental Death & Dismemberment||Depends on the plan||Rider available, limit depends on age.||$50,000||Depends on the plan|
|Emergency Dental||Paid in full||Up to $8,000,000||Optional||1,000 per year, $ 200 per tooth||Yes, however you need to pay an extra fee on top of your plan||Depending on the plan, it’s unlimited||It has coverage in the Diplomat Long Term and Diplomat International plans|
|Treatment Necessary as Result of Terrorism||Up to the amount of the coverage||Rider available up to $50,000-lifetime maximum||Clause available up to maximum of $50,000 in lifetime payments|
|Amateur Sports||Unlimited||Rider available up to $10,000||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Routine Nursery Care of a Newborn Child of a Covered Pregnancy||$25,000 to $156,000 depending on the plan||$1,000 additional deductible, $50,000 lifetime maximum, $200 wellness benefit for first 12 months||Yes||Depends on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan||Can be unlimited depending on the plan|
|Children born as a result of fertility treatment (such as IVF or surrogacy)||Only after the baby is 90 days old||Excluded||Depends on the plan||Excluded||No|
|Neonatal Intensive Care Unit||Check website for updated information||$250,000 maximum for first 31 days||No||Up to $250,000 for the first 31 days||No|
|Pre-existing condition exclusion period||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness||Conditions that are fully disclosed on the application and have not been excluded or restricted by a rider will be covered as any illness|
|Pre-existing condition look back period||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date||Any time prior to the effective date|
|Pre-existing annual maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
|Pre-existing lifetime maximum once covered||Unlimited depending on the plan||Up to $8,000,000||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan||Full reimbursement||Unlimited depending on the plan||Unlimited depending on the plan|
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
*Note: this table is just for informational purposes and subject to change. It was accurate as of the time we wrote it here, but please check each company’s individual website for updated info.
Types of visas you can apply for to live, work & study in China
If you want to live in China or have plans to be an expat in a Chinese territory, your first step will be to sort out your visas.
In the case of expats, companies often help you with the various steps of the process…from the visa application itself, to helping you find housing.
But no matter what, the most important point here is to pay close attention to what type of visa you’ll apply for, what documents you need, and the average time for the visa to be issued. If you’re traveling or moving with other members of your family, you’ll also have to know what the right visas are for them.
Take a look below for the 3 most common types of visas for expats immigrating to China.
Chinese work visa
Since we’re primarily talking about people who want to work in China, we’ll begin with the Chinese work visa.
The first step to getting this visa is to have a work contract from a company that can hire foreigners. To do this, the company will need to sign up with the work authorization system for foreigners.
Beyond this, you’ll need to be eligible for hiring. In other words, you need to meet the qualifications in one of 3 categories (A, B, C).
From there, you’ll have to prepare all the documents required for the work visa application and the residence authorization.
In this article here, I explain step-by-step how you can apply for a Chinese visa, plus give an introduction to categories A, B, and C.
Chinese tourist visa
The Chinese tourist visa, or the L visa, can be a little complicated depending on the country you’re from. Because in most cases, you have to provide proof of a roundtrip flight, a hotel reservation, your itinerary, or an invitation letter.
If you’re going to stay in China long-term, this probably isn’t the best visa for you.
Chinese student visa
If you’re interested in studying in China, you’ll want to look into the X1 or X2 visa. The X1 visa is for individuals who want to take a course in China that’s longer than 180 days. The X2 visa is for individuals who want to take a course under 180 days.
To apply, you need to show proof of an acceptance letter from a Chinese educational institution.
Other types of visas to travel to China
It’s worth pointing out that, although the three types of visas mentioned above are the most common, there are also many other types of visas with many other types of requirements.
One example is the J1 visa, made for foreign journalists staying in China more than 180 days. Or the J2 visa for professionals who plan to spend a shorter time in the country.
If you’re going to China for meetings, commercial negotiations, and other things relevant to business with Chinese companies, you’ll likely need a different type of work visa: the M visa.
Because of all these options, I recommend you take a look at the website of your country’s Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to see exactly which visa is right for you.
Visas for travelers to Hong Kong and Macau
The cities of Hong Kong and Macau are considered Chinese Special Administrative Regions and have laws that differ from the rest of China. This is also true when it comes to visas.
For most people, this means you don’t need a visa just to get in (like you do for mainland China) if your stay is less than 90 days. Although if your flight to get there has a connection in another Chinese city, you will still have to request a transit visa.
Here are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants in China:
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
And that’s it! If you still have any questions about getting health insurance for your move to China (or about moving abroad in general), let me know in the comments area below and I’ll get back to you!
Planning your next trip?