Hong Kong - counting the cost of great healthcare

• Expatriate healthcare in Hong Kong • One of the best healthcare systems available • Costs can be high for expatriates not insured privately. With life expectancy at 84 years for women and 78 years for men, Hong Kong is the second healthiest country in the world. This is part due to its very high standard of both public and private healthcare. However, expats should be aware that Hong Kong and China have the second highest medical costs in the world, second only to the United States. Hong Kong’s healthcare system is a mix of the public and private. Hong Kong residents are all entitled to free emergency healthcare and access to public services such as the Police and healthcare.

Ambulance crews can be relied upon to help in serious issues such as childbirth or other emergency situations where private healthcare insurance cover cannot be brought into action immediately. However, it is not advisable to rely on the emergency services, as most other conditions will not be treated, if not on an emergency basis. It is generally agreed that the hospitals and medical practices in Hong Kong offer a very high standard of care, with first rate doctors and nurses. Hong Kong’s private healthcare system is on a par with the best Western hospitals, indeed most of the healthcare profession in Hong Kong trained at medical schools in either the US or Western Europe. Those expats who do insist on having Western doctors treat them whilst in Hong Kong will find themselves charged up to twice as much for the same standard of medical care, as would be offered by local professionals. The private sector dovetails with public health care, with around 3700 private clinics providing primary and specialist medical care in 2008.

There were 13 private hospitals operating a total of 3712 hospital beds at the end of 2008 with 34 private nursing homes, providing about 3347 beds. Expats living in Hong Kong should be vigilant when checking their private healthcare, as health plans can vary enormously in terms of their coverage and exclusions, so it is vital both individual policyholders or companies taking out group policies are aware of the small print. Another area to be mindful of is over-prescription of medicines as a result of pharmaceutical company incentives which in the past has been a problem, but is now closely monitored by the Authorities. According to the Department of Health statistics in Hong Kong, respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and other chronic lung conditions account for around 18% of deaths annually, with cancer and heart disease the other major killers.

Hong Kong is a top ten market April International UK and commenting on healthcare advice for expats living there, Debbie Purser, CEO said: “Hong Kong has first rate medical facilities with excellent doctors and medical staff and expatriates can expect to be treated very well. However, the cost of such care can be high, as can the treatment of chronic conditions such as some cancers and lung complaints. Our policies have been designed to meet this demand, so customers can rest assured they will be well covered. We offer four levels of cover to make it easier for clients to match their care needs with their budget.”