A serious post here, about health insurance in China. Without mincing word too much, you need to have health insurance when you arrive in China, and if you dont have it when your plane lands, you should get it soon after. Ive found that medical problems can be unexpected in China, and healthcare costs at Western hospitals is very expensive.

First, do some research on the hospitals in your city. One great Western hospital that has branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Tianjin is United Family Hospital. In Shanghai, there are also ParkwayHealth Clinics. Browse around the hospital websites, and locate their health insurance section. Once there, go to the individual insurance companies websites, and decide which insurance provider is best for you. If youre already in China, you can contact a insurance brokerage firm like Pacific Prime, which may have some good deals for you.

One thing to take notice of is direct billing. If your financial situation isnt super secure, Id highly recommend getting insurance that direct bills with your hospital of choice. If you’re not familiar with direct billing, this means that the hospital charges your insurance company, without you having to pay for any costs up front (apart from copay or not covered items). If you have insurance which doesn’t direct bill, you have to pay the balance to the hospital first, and then mail paperwork and receipts to your insurance company, who will reimburse you. But, there’s no guarantee they’ll reimburse you right away, so direct billing is always best. Western medicine in China can be absurdly expensive without insurance, so make sure you have it, and that the company direct bills with your hospital of choice.

I have a friend who was on an American insurance plan, which most definitely did not direct bill with any hospital in China. He had an accident, had to go to the hospital, and after rounds of tests and scans, had a $2500 medical bill. As his insurance company didnt direct bill, he had to put the $2500 on his credit card, then fill out the paperwork to get paid later. Not being financially liquid, or having a low credit limit is another reason to have direct billing.

If youre moving to China in the hope of finding a job (who will give you insurance) still get an insurance plan of your own. You never know what kind of insurance your company will give you. My roommate worked at a Chinese school who only provided insurance at local Chinese hospitals. He thought he had appendicitis at one point, and did not want to be operated on at a Chinese hospital. When he consulted with the surgeon at the Western hospital in Shanghai, he found out it would be cheaper to fly back to the USA and get surgery which would be covered under his parentss plan, than to pay cash for the surgery in China.

To sum it up, get health insurance which direct bills with your choice Western hospital. The first plan I had cost $1000 a year with a $200 deductible. This isnt expensive, and will pay for itself if you visit the doctor or hospital even a couple of times.