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Dermatology and expat insurance in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a vibrant city with some of the highest efficiencies and perks of working in a modern setting. Healthcare standards are considered to be high and improving year on year; education in Hong Kong is also ranked highly in the Asia Pacific region. There are many positive aspects of moving to Hong Kong as an expatriate, whether it’s for a more lucrative career, to make investments, or to live a lavish lifestyle.

Many expatriates are lured to working life in Hong Kong, migrating over with their families. According to the South China Morning Post, expats in 2018 received a 3 percent salary increase on average, or roughly HK$61,600, which partly illustrates why expatriates are attracted to working there.

However due to the city-state’s geographical location, combined with atmospheric pollutants, a volatile climate, and also work and life-related stress, we are witnessing an increasing number of expatriates developing dermatological conditions that require treatment.

In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong blog post, we will discuss the various skin conditions exhibited by sufferers and explore the dermatological treatments available, followed by some guidance on what to consider when it comes to private health insurance coverage for you and your loved ones.

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What is dermatology?

Dermatology is the diagnosis, management, study, and research of any skin related condition that affects the membrane layers of the skin. The skin is the largest organ covering the entire body which offers protection against the external elements, such as foreign bodies (bacteria/viruses) and the regulation of the body’s temperature and fluid levels.

Dermatological conditions and treatments

Living in a dense and congested city like Hong Kong makes people more susceptible to some of the common skin conditions, chief among them being:

Eczema

This is an inflammation of the epidermis which causes symptoms such as redness, blisters, and swelling to the affected area. Due to Hong Kong’s sub-tropical climate, eczema sufferers may experience increased irritation as the skin flairs and itches. Sweating can trigger eczema as minerals such as sodium leave the skin through the perspiration process to cool the body.

Treatment for eczema: although this condition is currently not curable, it can be managed in many different ways. Caring for skin using emollient therapy such as creams and ointments can help soothe the skin to reduce the symptoms. Special emollient soap products containing mild emulsifiers removes any irritation caused by chemicals and detergents. There are also wet wrap and dressing treatments that can manage symptoms and reduce irritation.

Acne

This condition is caused by the blockage of pores, excess skin oil, bacteria, and skin inflammation. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the condition such as whitehead and blackhead pores or small red papules. Sources point to smoking, hormonal changes and genetic related traits as some of the main causes, but we are increasingly seeing stress as a significant factor leading to these symptoms.

Treatment for acne: for those that smoke it is advisable to quit smoking to alleviate acne symptoms. For hormonal changes, it is best to speak to your local GP about treatment options, such as over the counter topical medication. Stress can be reduced by taking regular breaks and practicing mindfulness, along with deep breathing. Speak to work colleagues and management about any stress due to work, which may result in improvements to make work more efficient and comfortable.

Psoriasis

This is believed to be a genetic condition where the body produces excess skin cells. The skin disease appears as crusty red patches on the skin that can be become dry, rough, sore and itchy. There are various types of psoriasis, which means causes differ depending on the type. Stress also appears to be a relevant factor in causing this genetic disease to emerge.

Treatment for psoriasis: this condition can be treated using common emollients such as aqueous cream and Vaseline, which have good moisturizing effects. Just like acne, topical steroids can help reduce symptoms after consultation from a skin specialist who can prescribe them for you. Oral medication can also be prescribed, which includes oral vitamin A and immune suppressants such as methotrexate and cyclosporine.

Overview of the healthcare system in Hong Kong

As mentioned in the beginning, Hong Kong’s healthcare system has an excellent reputation which is known for its quality and efficiency for the population working and living there.

Life expectancy in the city is one of the highest in the world, due mainly to its accessible healthcare in both the public and private sector.

According to the Department of Health in Hong Kong, provisional life expectancy is 82.2 years for males and 87.6 years for females. Hong Kong’s healthcare is a dual-track system, which means it is made up of two branches: private and public. There are roughly 43 public hospitals and 12 private hospitals in the densely populated city.

Public and Private Healthcare

Between private and public healthcare the main difference is the quality of service you will receive, the convenience offered, and most obviously the cost of paying for treatment.

Public healthcare

For Hong Kong residents the prices can vary from HK$50 for dermatological services in general clinics to HK$135 in a specialized clinic.

On the other hand, non-eligible expatriates can still use these general and specialized services but they will be charged a higher rate: roughly HK$445 and HK$1190 respectively.

Public hospitals in Hong Kong are also facing a growing problem: is overstretched. A lack of resources, which is further exacerbated by low pay for doctors and an increase in the population, means longer waiting times for treatments. This is a major reason why a growing number of individuals are opting to go directly to private facilities for care.

Private healthcare

The private system is known to be expensive and is responsible for 70 percent of primary care services and only 10 percent of inpatient services. The cost of seeing a dermatologist in Hong Kong is subject to the doctor’s reputation and location.

The fee to visit a dermatologist can vary between HK$700 to HK$2800 and can be much higher if you include the cost of prescription medications and creams

The perk of choosing to go private is that, compared to public facilities, waiting times are much shorter. Many also believe that the quality and standards of the private system are exceptionally higher.

Does private health insurance cover dermatological conditions?

The answer to this really depends on the type of health insurance you secure in the first place.

Generally, it can be agreed upon that outpatient consultations by a dermatologist that are considered medically necessary are generally covered by health plans.

However, any elective or non-emergency procedures are likely to be excluded. Cosmetic procedures are most certainly excluded, such as tattoo removal, botox, liposuction, eyelid surgery, and so on.

What is also worth noting here is that individuals must be aware of what pre-existing conditions are excluded from the insurer.

There are a plethora of insurance companies offering different terms, so speaking to the right company and researching their terms can be a difficult task.

Therefore when searching for expat health insurance, it is imperative that you get in touch with an expert broker who can determine what policies suit you best, help simplify the terms and conditions to empower your decision.

How can I secure coverage to cover skin conditions?

If having read the article you feel it is appropriate to get adequate health coverage to cover skin conditions, then it is best to discuss your healthcare and insurance matters by using the services of an established insurance brokerage. The earlier you act and plan, the better you can ensure the costs of treating your conditions can be supported by your insurer.

With almost two decades of knowledge, as well as expertise and experience across nine offices around the world, Pacific Prime Hong Kong is a leading insurance broker that specializes in international expat insurance. We are committed to simplifying insurance and ensure our clients receive the best impartial advice so they can make the best insurance purchasing decision.

There are several health insurance policies available. Expatriates can secure individual health insurance for themselves, and also family health insurance.

Contact us today for insurance advice, an obligation-free quote, and a free plan comparison for skin conditions.

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Jimmy

Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Jimmy is a content writer who helps simplify insurance for readers interested in international private medical insurance. He is on a mission in Thailand to support locals, expatriates, and businesses by bring the latest news and updates to his Pacific Prime blog articles.

His expert view and wealth of knowledge on insurance can also be found in his blogs for China, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Jimmy