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Local vs. international health insurance in Hong Kong

There are a few inescapable truths that will apply to every expat in Hong Kong, which include the high cost of living, competition for top jobs, getting access to reputable schools, and chief among these is access to quality medical care should an accident or illness occur. However, with Hong Kong having the second most expensive healthcare in the world after the United States, you may want to think twice about seeking medical attention without a comprehensive health insurance plan.

In which case, a major question to ask yourself when deciding on an insurance plan is whether you want a policy that provides only local care, or if you would like an international health insurance policy that will cover you outside of Hong Kong.

In this article by Pacific Prime Hong Kong, we look at the advantages and disadvantages of local and international health insurance plans to help you make an educated decision about which type of plan is right for you.

Individual Health Insurance Plans

The main advantage of a local health insurance plan is the price

What you will notice right away if you were to compare the bottom lines of every health plan is that they are less expensive than their international counterparts. Premiums for local health insurance plans in Hong Kong are typically based on your medical and claims history with the chosen insurer. This means if you are fit and healthy with no pre-existing chronic condition(s), your premiums can be very affordable.

Another reason for their affordability is that they have stricter limits on covered benefits and they don’t include insurance options that are applicable overseas. So, if you are the type of person who does not travel abroad often, then local health insurance plans may be your best bet for value in Hong Kong.

Local healthcare facility network

Insurance companies will often create a network of public and private hospitals in Hong Kong as a way to cut costs and add value for their members. By negotiating better rates at local hospitals within the public and private healthcare system and setting up handy features like direct billing (where the insurer can pay your hospital bills directly), Hong Kong insurers can add perks that make their local plans more attractive.

A major disadvantage of local health insurance are the limits

A significant disadvantage of a local plan over an international plan is their strict limits on covered benefits. Although strict limits are a factor that contributes to lower premiums, they may not provide complete cover for major health issues.

For instance, you have a local plan in Hong Kong that has a sub-limit for cancer treatment. If you are diagnosed with cancer and require treatment that is often over a long period of time, the treatment costs will easily and quickly amount to a sizable sum. This amount could exceed the limit agreed, which leaves you having to pay a fair amount of money out-of-pocket.

Whereas an international health insurance plan would cover the care and treatment in their entirety up to the annual limit. However, depending on the local insurer, plans can be made to have high limits but this will require the payment of high premiums.

Traveling abroad

What if you need to travel abroad? Would your local health plan in Hong Kong cover your medical expenses if you get sick, ill, or have a medical emergency abroad? The honest answer here is no. Local health plan as the name indicates covers only medical costs or the benefits agreed upon during the underwriting process in Hong Kong only. This means if you ever need to travel outside Hong Kong, you will have to go through the trouble of arranging your own travel or short-term health insurance policy.

While these plans will provide care for you abroad, the hospitals that accept it may be limited. Furthermore, if the accident is serious enough, the insurer may rush your return home so that they are no longer required to foot the bill. A new issue could then arise that your local plan may not provide coverage as the ailment could be considered a pre-existing condition. However, with an international insurance plan, all your medical expenses are covered as agreed in the insurance contract.

A major advantage of international health insurance plans is worldwide coverage

The main (and most obvious) reason that an international health insurance policy might appeal to you is in the name itself. It’s international! For example, if you are an expat and a professional living in Hong Kong, it is likely that you head back to your home country once or twice a year.

On top of this, you may travel regularly for business around the Asia Pacific region, and take additional holidays with your family from time to time to just about anywhere in the world.

If this sounds like you, even though you may not want to think about it, having high-quality insurance coverage while traveling is going to be important when you are abroad. This is because, when you really need it, the last thing that you are going to want to worry about is how much treatment is going to cost, or whether or not you will even be allowed to be admitted to the hospital, as medical facilities in some countries will not provide care without proof of insurance or up-front payment.

Choose your preferred doctor/hospital

As a standard feature on international private health insurance plans, members can choose virtually any hospital, clinic, or doctor they want. This means you never have to worry about your hospital being ‘in-network’, or that your insurer will deny your claim based on going to the wrong location. This is true whether at home or abroad. For the ultimate freedom of choice in the healthcare of you and your family, international health insurance plans are the way to go.

The main disadvantage of any international health insurance plan is the higher premium

There is no real argument when it comes to what an international health plan can provide, but the only real drawback to obtaining a policy is the significantly higher premium. It will generally be higher versus a local plan with the same benefits. As with most things in this world, you get what you pay for, and if you can pay the higher premiums, what you will receive is a premier insurance policy that will be accepted just about anywhere you go.

Compare and contrast

In a lot of ways, local and international private health insurance plans are the same. You can essentially receive the same coverages, plan features, and benefit levels at home, including lifetime renewability, direct billing, and more. As you can see from the points above, the main differentiators that will come into play are simply where you can receive insurance benefits, as well as the cost of the plans.

Head to our compare health insurance plans page in Hong Kong for more information.

At Pacific Prime Hong Kong, our knowledgeable advisors can answer any questions that you have about which type of plan is right for you. Once you have decided on your preference, they can also provide you with options and a free price quotation for the type of insurance that you prefer.

Start the process by using our online quotation tool or contact us today to find out more!

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