Hospital insurance: What is it, what does it cover, and why do we need it?

Hospital insurance PPHK blog

Hong Kong is famed for its world class healthcare system, which has of late gained further recognition from their number one ranking in Bloomberg’s 2016 health-care efficiency index.

When seeking healthcare you will find that both public and private hospitals in Hong Kong are modernly equipped and provide a high quality of service. That being said, the increasingly over-utilized public system has meant that more and more people are seeking the latter option for shorter waiting times, and other coveted perks such as upscale amenities that often make their healthcare experience significantly more comfortable. 

Those opting for the private hospital route in the city-state have a total of 11 private hospitals to choose from. While the perks offered in private facilities are indeed appealing to many, the bank breakingly expensive price tag attached to their services may not be so attractive. For this reason, many expats and locals alike in Hong Kong are securing hospital insurance to protect themselves from the high cost of private healthcare.

What exactly is hospital insurance, and what does it cover?

Hospital insurance, otherwise known as hospitalization insurance, is a type of medical policy that covers all or part of the policyholder’s hospital expenses.

Every insurance plan is different, and coverage benefits vary. Therefore it’s important that you study your policy to ensure that you know what you are covered for, what the coverage limits are, and that you are aware of all caveats and plan exclusions.

Generally speaking, hospital insurance plans will cover the following hospital expenses, up to the plan’s coverage limit:

  • Surgery charges
  • Ambulance
  • Room and board fees
  • Operating theatre fees
  • Surgical appliances
  • Anaesthesist charges
  • Medicines provided throughout the hospitalization period
  • Lab tests, X-rays, MRI, etc.
  • Intensive care room

Please note that hospital insurance plans typically do not cover the following:

  • Treatments that are not deemed “medically necessary”, such as elective cosmetic surgery
  • Dental services
  • Infertility treatment
  • Optical treatment

If you’re on the look-out for a more comprehensive level of coverage, you may also want to consider health insurance plans that further include cover for outpatient costs (e.g. visits to the GP), or full coverage plans that include add-on benefits such as dental, maternity, and/or optical cover.

Why do we need hospital insurance?

First and foremost, having hospital insurance will help you offset the high cost of private healthcare in Hong Kong. The cost of treatment can be about the same as what’s charged in the US, which is widely known to be the most expensive country for healthcare in the world. For example, an overnight stay at a private room can set you back by HKD 6,600, excluding other charges such as doctor’s and nurse’s fees, meals, etc.  

In most countries, hospitalization expenses also tend to be significantly costlier than other forms of medical treatment (e.g. clinic and preventative care services). This is further indicated in Aon’s Global Medical Trend Rates report, which revealed that on a global scale, the most important element of medical plan cost is hospitalization treatment.

Further, with the increased incidence of “silent”, asymptomatic diseases in Hong Kong (e.g. high blood pressure), more and more people are developing medical conditions that go on without showing any symptoms until later stages, at which point the patient will most likely require urgent and unexpected emergency medical care.

Of course, there’s also the probability of unforeseen accidents and injuries that could occur anywhere, even at home. For those without hospital insurance, these unforeseen costs can be financially devastating.

What will I need to consider when shopping around for hospital insurance?

When shopping around for hospital insurance, there are a few key factors that you will likely need to consider, some of which include the following.

Is your plan globally portable?

Do you require a local plan or an international plan? If you’re a globally mobile expat, you may find that an international plan offers a lot more freedom than local plans, especially when considering that its coverage benefits can be enjoyed virtually in any hospital, anywhere in the world. However, if you’re spending most of your time in Hong Kong and rarely travel overseas, you may be better off with a local plan, and opt for securing travel insurance/ short-term insurance instead for protection from medical emergencies when going abroad.

Does the plan cover pre-existing conditions?

To avoid paying out on claims for medical conditions that have occurred before a policyholder secures their health insurance, many plans out there will exclude cover for pre-existing conditions. However, some insurance companies do offer options for people looking to cover their pre-existing condition. To learn more about whether a certain plan covers your pre-existing condition(s), contact one of our insurance expats at Pacific Prime today.

If you’re on the lookout for the ideal hospital insurance plan that addresses you and your family’s specific healthcare needs, be sure to contact our insurance experts, who are on hand to provide you with impartial advice, as well as free quote and plan comparisons from Hong Kong’s top insurance companies.

Home turf: Are Hong Kong’s artificial turf pitches safe?

artificial turf

In a city as modern as Hong Kong, one must make a honest effort to remain active in order to maintain their physical health. Putting in crazy hours at the office can seem to drain our energy and keep us living a sedentary lifestyle once we get home. Oftentimes we sit in an office chair all day to then feel like we only have enough vigor to catch up on our favorite TV shows on the couch at home, or meet friends for a couple drinks in the evening. This all adds up to a spiral of low energy living that can lead expanding waistlines, as well as lower quality of mental and physical health in general. In some cases, ignoring our physical activity can even lead to more serious health problems or even depression. This is why it is so important to make use of the outdoor areas, sports centres, and other facilities that Hong Kong has to offer. However, one such type of spot in Hong Kong, artificial turf sports pitches, have recently come under scrutiny in Hong Kong over safety issues, while others worldwide have been criticizing this surface for many years.

Is artificial turf creating more injuries for Hong Kong athletes? Does the city have an issue with toxic pitches? And what can you do to mitigate any potential dangers? Here, Pacific Prime provides you with answers.

The toxicity of our city

In December of 2016, news reports began to surface about concerns over some artificial turf pitches in Hong Kong being toxic to the point that they might be a danger to those that used them. This is in addition to worries that already have existed about such fields that particles can be inhaled and cause allergies. There was quite a bit of worry that the fields in question contained chemicals that are known to be potentially cancer-causing. In fact, five different pitches were shut down as tests were run to see if a combination of six different toxic chemicals were at unsafe levels.

Since then, the tests found that the fine rubber granules that are found on the pitches did not present a significant threat to the health and safety of the public, and the pitches have been re-opened. However, there are still those that remain unsure that the safety concerns related to the artificial turf can now be written off. Dr. Karen Mak, a biochemist at University of Hong Kong, even commented to the press that there may still be a health risk imposed by the substances used in the creation of the turf, and alluded that the Hong Kong government may want to develop its own standards for the toxicity of such products. At this time the city points to standards established by the European Union.

Injury prone on the pitch

Outside of this toxin scare, there is still plenty of reason to be concerned about your physical wellbeing when you are playing on artificial turf sports grounds. Most commonly, these manifest themselves in the form of injuries to bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and more, as contacting other players, the field itself or merely planting your foot in an awkward way can sometimes lead to a trip to the hospital.

Now, to be fair, this is a highly contested notion, but many people, including many top athletes, believe that artificial turf leads to more injuries than playing on a grass field. Many prominent official sports organizations –such as FIFA – on the other hand, state their belief that artificial turf does not raise the risk of injury by any substantial measure, which is a stance that has been, for the most part, supported by available scientific research. This, however, is only true of modern fields, as previous iterations of the artificial turf used today had actually been shown to increase sports injuries when compared to grass surfaces as recently as the 1990s.

Not all the science has reached this conclusion, though. In 2013 the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons published a review that stated that, “Despite the increased popularity of third-generation artificial turf fields, the effect of this playing surface on athlete health and injury rates has yet to be fully elucidated,” suggesting that the impacts of the surface may have yet to fully be realized. This conclusion was likely reached as results seem to vary depending on the type of activity being engaged in. For instance a 2014 review found that anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in American football – a contact sport – seemed to increase on artificial turf, while this was not true of a non-contact sport like soccer.

Addressing artificial turf risks

While some of the reports of dangerous artificial turf may be overblown, clearly concerns over safety are not without some merit. So if you are concerned about getting injured on the pitch, what should you do? Well, those at risk or with previous injuries to their knees or ankles would do well to make sure they wear the proper braces to support affected body parts, take time to stretch properly before engaging in athletics, and be sure to stay hydrated.

Additionally, having a comprehensive insurance plan in place can go a long way towards addressing costs from sports injuries, especially since it is not uncommon to need surgery to properly heal sports injuries like ligament and tendon tears. What’s more, after the United States, Hong Kong has the most expensive private healthcare costs in the world, and while the city’s private hospitals can provide top notch medical care in a quick and efficient manner, costs can become burdensome.

If you play sports in Hong Kong, or are just looking for high quality medical insurance that you can use worldwide, contact the insurance experts at Pacific Prime Hong Kong! Our agents are standing by to provide you with a comparison of plans from numerous insurance companies, as well as a free price quote.

International Women’s Day March 8: Focus on Women’s Health

empowered women international women's day

Women are strong, vibrant, and adventurous. They are gentle and calm, then explosively passionate. We feel their love, energy, and guidance at almost every turn of life; either as a partner, a mother, a child, a friend, or as a competitor. International Women’s Day is a day for celebrating women, recognizing their achievements and contributions, and working to make the world a better place for young women growing up.

Each year, we focus on women’s health as our area of interest and expertise. While we’ve previously focused on individual health issues (such as writing to raise awareness of breast cancer in Hong Kong), this year we’re going to look at what some of the common health concerns are for women around the world are, who’s working to address these issues, and what you can do to help!

#BeBoldforChange – About the International Women’s Day

In 1911, a decision was reached in Copenhagen for an International Women’s Day [IWD] to be honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than one million men and women attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights; such as to work and be able to vote. Since then the day has gained global recognition for its ability to highlight the contribution of women to history and society.

This year’s campaign, #BeBoldforChange, calls on all people to join together and make a pledge to act for a more gender inclusive world. You can pledge to challenge bias and inequality, campaign against violence, forge more advancement opportunities for women, celebrate their achievements, or champion education for women. In the end, it’s about knowing what you can do to ensure we’re all valued equally now and in the future.

Common health concerns for women

Part of what makes International Women’s Day a fantastic opportunity is that it’s a chance to highlight some health concerns that a specifically troubling for many around the world. These include:

Gynecologic cancer

There are five main gynecologic cancers that women should be aware of. These are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, and begin in different places in a woman’s pelvis. One of the most common and trustworthy methods for gynecologic screening is to have a Pap test done. Testing guidelines are strictly followed based on factors such as age, but women over the age of 30 should have one test performed every three years.

Endometriosis

This disorder is one where tissue that normally lines the inside of a woman’s uterus grows outside of it. Endometriosis can involve the ovaries and fallopian tubes, while it may rarely grow beyond the pelvic regions. The “misplaced tissue” can cause pain, infertility, and very heavy periods. While some women may have no symptoms at all, trouble conceiving can be a sign they have endometriosis.

Uterine fibroids

As the most common non-cancerous tumours in women of childbearing age, uterine fibroids are muscle cells and other tissues growing around the wall of the uterus, or womb. The cause of fibroids is unknown, however risk factors run high in some ethnicities and in those who are overweight. The symptoms can include heavy or painful periods, lower back pain, pain during intercourse, and reproductive problems (including infertility and miscarriages).

Sexually transmitted diseases

STDs are infections passed on during sexual intercourse. The causes of STDs are bacteria, parasites, and viruses, and there are more than 20 types that exist. STDs are an issue for both men and women, however women need to be aware that some STDs can seriously impact their ability to have children. Using condoms during intercourse does not eliminate the risk of catching an STD (but they do help), so it is recommended to get regular sexual health checks.

women celebrating international women's day

Getting help, and helping others

If you’re concerned about your own health, or you’re looking to donate to an organization that will help others facing the same challenges, then help is not far away. The following organizations work tirelessly to improve women’s health outcomes for those in Hong Kong and abroad. Those of you wanting to support these organisations can do so by following their links:

Hong Kong

  • HK Breast Cancer Foundation: The HKBCF was set up in 2005 as a charitable organization dedicated to raising awareness for breast cancer issues in Hong Kong through education, support, and research and advisory. Their work includes supporting breast cancer patients on their road to recovery.
  • Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women: For 20 years, the ACSVAW has been working to raise awareness of sexual violence against women, and promoting a gender-equal environment in Hong Kong.
  • Association of Women with Disabilities in Hong Kong: The AWDHK works with women living with disabilities in order to help them lead full and engaging lives. They advocate for disability issues for women, as well as providing financial and health support for those in need.
  • Hong Kong Federation of Women’s Centres: The HKFWC works with individuals. agencies, groups, and decision-making bodies to support and empower women. Their services included counselling and legal support, continuing education support, social participation, advocacy, as well as economic and health empowerment.
  • HER Fund: HER Fund is a social change movement in Hong Kong that is committed to empowering the capacity of marginalized women to become self-sufficient. Their four key focuses are discrimination, promoting civil participation, and freedom from both violence and poverty (including granting access to healthcare).

The Hong Kong Government website, www.women.gov.hk, lists a number of other non-governmental organizations that operate with women’s interests as their focus.

Worldwide

  • Days For Girls: This charitable organization aims to provide every girl and woman in the world with access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education by 2022. Their DFG kits provide young girls and women with feminine hygiene materials to help improve their health.
  • Global Fund for Women: The GFW aims include a campaign for zero violence, economic and political empowerment, and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Their health work involves supporting groups increasing access to quality maternal healthcare to providing HIV information and services.
  • International Women’s Health Coalition: The IWHC promotes the rights of women in reproductive health, supports groups providing services and education to women around the world and advancing female-focused health policies around the world.
  • WomanCare Global: WomanCare Global is a non-profit committed to providing access to reproductive health solutions for women and girls around the world.

These charities, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations are provided as an example of agencies advancing the interests of women and women’s health both in Hong Kong and globally. If you are interested in volunteering, donating or supporting these organizations in anyway, we urge you to undertake your own research and assessment to ensure their work is something you would be comfortable being associated with.

International Women’s Day events in Hong Kong

If you’re looking to get involved with some IWD events, there are a few happening around the S.A.R.:

Women’s Five

On April 1, there will be a 5km fun run that promotes fitness, healthy lifestyles, and the inspiration of women in Hong Kong. For more information, visit here.

Dare to Dream? – A celebration of women with vision

As part of the #BeBoldforChange campaign, professional services firm EY is hosting a networking event on March 8 that gives HK women a chance to be inspired by other visionary women, empowers them to network and provides a night of fun and laughter. See here for more info.

Women at Sea: Conversation with women seafarers

Also on March 8, the Hong Kong Maritime Museum will be hosting a talk that highlights the contribution of women in today’s maritime industries and celebrates their achievements. Information about the event is available here.

Protecting your own health and those of your loved ones

As the saying goes, charity begins at home – meaning that you should also consider the health and wellbeing of your family as well as those outside your home. One way of supporting yourself, or the health of women in your family, is to ensure you have appropriate medical insurance. While prevention and regular check ups are a fantastic idea, the benefit of health insurance coverage should not be overlooked this International Women’s Day.

The team at Pacific Prime Hong Kong are well experienced in ensuring comprehensive and appropriate health insurance for a wide range of clients. They’re experts in providing solutions for female-specific cancer coverage and maternity services, and have written a number of guides and articles on their blog covering women’s health issues. For a free quote, or some helpful advice, give the advisers at Pacific Prime Hong Kong a call today.

Do insurers have a new strategy to manage health insurance premiums in Hong Kong?

Dollar sign which indicates health insurance premiums

Hong Kong is one of the most expensive locations in Asia and indeed the world for private medical care. This, in turn, means that the city is also one of the most expensive locations for medical insurance that covers the cost of care at the city’s 11 private hospitals and hundreds of private health clinics around the city. Due to this, all parties involved with healthcare, including insurers, are constantly trying to manage the cost of care. In this article, we take a look at what the city’s health insurance providers are doing to manage the cost of health insurance premiums.  

The most recent strategy

If you read the news in the city, you may have noticed a bit of an inflammatory article posted in various news outlets in mid-February 2016 about a certain Hong Kong-based insurance company’s new strategy of insurance premium management. The SCMP has a full overview of what exactly went on. In short, according to the article, “The insurance giant said in a letter to private doctors [in Hong Kong] that it might no longer cover hospitalisation fees for “simple procedures” such as colonoscopy, gastroscopy and cataract surgery, which can be carried out at day care centres.” The idea here is that the insurer is essentially trying to encourage doctors at the private hospitals to recommend that non-medically necessary simple procedures be done at outpatient or day care centers rather than in the hospital. Generally, simple procedures conducted at these centers will cost less than at the private hospitals. For example, the article noted that “90 percent of cases handled over the past year involved hospitalization, with an average health claim of HK$30,000 – three times more expensive than if they had been treated at a day care centre.”  

Will it work?

On paper, this strategy makes sense for the insurer as it helps to ultimately reduce the overall amount they will pay out on claims and the number of claims submitted. This, in turn, should result in smaller decreases in your premium each year. In other words, it’s a way for insurers to curb premium inflation. Beyond that, this strategy is also a way to help curb or manage the cost of health care at private hospitals in Hong Kong. In some cases, private hospitals can tend to overcharge. For example, another article published by the SCMP on this strategy reported that “In a statement, the insurer cited examples of overcharging, including one of a HK$400,000 gallbladder removal surgery – far above the average claim cost of between HK$50,000 and HK$80,000.” Overcharging for medical care is a serious concern in the city, especially at private hospitals where there is little to no cost oversight in place to help ensure care remains somewhat accessible. If insurers can work with doctors to direct people to the lower cost option, in a perfect world, you should start to see better management of the cost of health care at private healthcare facilities in the city. This ultimately translates to better premium management and potentially more affordable health insurance.  

Doctors say no

Looking at the other side of the coin, what works on paper doesn’t always work in reality. Once the news broke that the insurer had sent letters to doctors stating their stance. According to a follow-up article in the SCMP, “Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, president of the Medical Association, criticised the insurer’s move as “unacceptable”, and said carrying out such procedures in day medical clinics was not entirely safe.” He went on to say, “It’s up to [doctors] to decide whether a patient requires [a hospital stay]. Whether the stay would be reimbursed is purely up to the insurance company,” In other words, while procedures at day clinics may be more affordable, for some people they might be less safe. For example, elderly patients, patients with existing medical conditions, or high-risk patients might need extra monitoring before and after a surgery, monitoring that is not usually done at day clinics. The doctors worry that if an insurer dictates where people can receive care, it might result in more claims especially if a procedure goes wrong and hospitalization is needed. This would ultimately result in more claims and higher medical insurance premiums in the city.  

Our thoughts

What this recent row highlights is, that honestly, both sides here have a good point: Insurers are worried about the cost of health care in the private sector, while doctors want to make sure patients receive the best care. In our viewpoint, the insurer might have just gone about trying to implement cost containment strategies in the wrong way. In order to effectively manage costs, it is important for all sides to work together. This means that insurers need to maintain strong relationships with doctors and not alienate them, while doctors need to be receptive to ideas from insurers.  

There’s another factor to consider here

That said, there is another factor here that the various articles and debates on this issue have not really discussed: the people who have health insurance and want to receive care at the private hospitals. In our experience, most people who purchase private health insurance plans want to be able to receive care from the private hospitals of their choosing. Placing too many limits on where you can receive care, or poorly managing claims and inflation could drive people away from specific plans. If this happens there will come a time where there is not enough money available for the insurer to cover existing claims. Should this happen, insurers will often increase premiums in order to ensure they will be able to cover claims. We aren’t saying insurers shouldn’t attempt to manage premiums and the cost of care, rather they should strive to work closely with doctors in the city in order to develop solutions that work for all parties including the end-user who ultimately will use the plan.  

You do have options

Luckily, there are a number of insurance providers out there who have developed strong relationships with the healthcare community and in turn have strategies in place to help manage premium inflation. The question is, how can you find one of these insurers and plans? That’s where a broker like Pacific Prime Hong Kong comes in. With long-standing relationships with major international insurers in the city we are well aware of who is doing what, and what plans are best able to cover you at the private hospitals in Hong Kong. Talk with us today to learn more about how we can help.

5 mistakes to avoid when purchasing group health insurance

Warning sign to indicate mistakes with group health insurance

Offering a strong benefits package to employees can be one of the best ways to attract and retain top quality talent. While benefits packages will be different for each and every business there are a number of essential elements that the most successful packages all offer including group health insurance. The problem here is that simply offering health insurance will not guarantee a successful benefits program. Here, we take a look at the top five mistakes managers make when implementing group health insurance and how you can avoid them.

1. Not selecting the right type of coverage

Generally speaking, companies will secure one of two types of plans: local or international plans. Local plans are designed to provide coverage in one country or city. In Hong Kong’s case, local plans will provide coverage of medical bills within Hong Kong.

International plans, on the other hand, are, as the name suggests, international. They provide coverage of medical bills in pretty much every country on earth (many plans will actually exclude the US due to the incredibly high cost of care in the country).

The mistake many group health insurance managers have made in the past is securing an inadequate level of coverage for employees. This is especially true for businesses with multiple offices in different countries and employees who travel between them. If you secure a local, Hong Kong only plan and an employee gets sick while visiting outside of Hong Kong, their medical bills will not be covered.

As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to move employees overseas, or to other countries, for postings it would be advisable to consider securing them an international health insurance plan. This is especially important if they will be traveling or relocating to an area with sub-par health care and will not be eligible to receive care from local facilities.

2. Believing pre-existing conditions are automatically covered

Historically, group health insurance plans have included what insurers refer to as a Medical History Disregarded (MHD). This means that the medical history of those covered by the plan is not taken into account when these people join the plan. In other words, their pre-existing conditions are covered.

While it is still common to find group health insurance plans with a MHD, there is an increasing number of group plans where pre-existing conditions are not covered unless you negotiate an MHD when you secure the plan. If this is the case, there will usually be a higher premium for the plan. Due to this, it is crucial that you review any potential plan you are considering thoroughly to ensure whether pre-existing conditions are covered, or whether MHD is available.

3. Not fully understanding the regional coverage or eligibility requirements

This is a two-fold mistake some plan managers can make. First off, it is important to know the regional requirements around health insurance. What we mean by this is that some countries in the region have implemented health insurance requirements that must be met by any person living in that country.

For example, if you plan to open an office in Dubai and send staff from Hong Kong to the new office it is now mandatory for all residents to secure company sponsored health insurance that meets strict requirements before a visa will be issued.

Beyond that, some insurers will have a compulsory membership clause attached to their group health insurance plans. This is a contractual clause that states that all staff members of a certain level that you have selected to cover with the plan must be covered.

For example, if you choose to secure an international health insurance plan for your senior managers in Hong Kong, all senior managers will be required to be covered by the plan. If a new manager joins, they will be required to be added to the plan.

To be clear here, this is not the case with all group plans but it is something to look out for, especially if you have a growing business.

4. Leaving employees out of the selection process

It is not uncommon for an HR team or managers to come up with what on paper looks like a great group health insurance scheme only to find out that staff aren’t using it. If this is the case, the investment made will not usually see a positive return and could end up costing the company a fair amount of money.

The most successful group insurance plans offer coverage that the employees find to be valuable and usable. The best way to ensure this is to involve your staff during the group insurance selection process. Take the time to ask them what types of coverage they value and believe they would benefit from.

This can help ensure that your staff know what is covered and how to use the plan which in turn reduces the amount of time needed to manage the plan. Beyond that, staff who are invested will usually be more pleased with their benefits which could help increase retention rates.   

5. Going with the cheapest plan

As with many things in business and indeed life, the cheapest solution might not be the best solution. This is true for group health insurance plans, where simply going with the cheapest solution is not always the best idea.

Cheaper plans will tend to have a number of drawbacks that may not be apparent at first. For example, they might offer lower levels of coverage or might not cover specific conditions or treatments. This will have an impact on not only how employees use the plan but also the overall return on investment.

Beyond that, cheaper plans might not offer additional benefits such as wellness that allow companies to build a solid benefit platform on. By including these additional benefits, companies have been able to not only realize an increased return on investment, but employees are often more productive and healthy.   

How to avoid these mistakes

So, how can you ensure that you are selecting the best plan for both your business and your employees? One of the best ways is to work with an employee benefits expert like Pacific Prime. We have a dedicated team who works with group clients to help them secure the right benefits plan for your employees. Click here to learn more about how we can help with group health insurance.