Posted on Jun 26, 2015 by Rob McBroom
While we all hope that we will be able to avoid a medical emergency in Hong Kong, there is always a chance that a visit to one of the various A & E departments in the city will be necessary. With the high cost of health care in Hong Kong, especially at the private hospitals which are preferred by the city’s expats, a visit to the A & E department can put a bit of a drain on one’s finances. That’s why it is important to have a global health insurance plan, especially if you plan to seek care at a private facility.
Even though you may have health insurance, do you know what to do with it in a medical emergency? To help, we have created this article that covers steps you need to take when you have a medical emergency.
- Call 999 or a taxi - Ambulances in Hong Kong are highly reliable, and have an average response time of 12 minutes, which means if the emergency is serious enough, they can be the best way to get to the hospital. Just dial the Emergency Services line (999). That being said, the Hong Kong Fire Services Department - the department that dispatches and operates the public ambulances - has noted, “If circumstances permit and your condition is not too serious, you should go to the hospital by other means.” e.g., by taxi.
- If you are able to, call Pacific Prime or your insurer’s 24 hour emergency number - Here at Pacific Prime we have an expert team of claims advisors who can help initiate claims, provide advice, and even manage the process. Our claims department can be reached by email ([email protected]) or by phone (3589 0531) during working hours. If it is after office hours the best thing to do would be to contact your insurance provider - who likely has a 24 hour contact line. If you have an insurance plan with direct billing, both Pacific Prime and your insurer can initiate the process while you are enroute to the hospital.
- Get treatment - If your condition does not require urgent medical attention, it may be a good idea to put off treatment until you and the hospital have both contacted your insurance provider. The reason for this is twofold. First, because you will know exactly what is covered, while making the overall claims process shorter. Secondly, this is because some hospitals in Hong Kong require payment up-front (especially if you don’t have an HKID card) before any major treatment (unless it is life threatening). By contacting your provider, they can guarantee payment first which means you will likely be able to receive care faster.
- Have the hospital contact your insurer - When you get to the hospital you should inform the staff there that you have an insurance plan, and get your doctor or their staff to contact your provider or Pacific Prime. If you have direct billing there is a good chance that the staff have already been contacted and the claims process started - if you were able to reach your insurer before the hospital, but it is always a good idea to check and confirm with the hospital.
What to do if you can’t reach your insurance provider or Pacific Prime
While insurance companies would prefer you to make contact with them before any treatment is started, there may be a chance that you won’t be able to reach them. If this is the case, it is advisable to at the very least go to the hospital and have them contact your provider. The hospital will usually then initiate care and bill you later. Should the case be really serious, be sure to have your medical insurance card on you at all times. Staff in A & E departments in Hong Kong are trained to look for these cards and start the claims process while you are receiving treatment.
Important steps to take before an emergency happens
There are a number of things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible during a trip to the A & E department in Hong Kong.
1. Learn about your insurance plan
There are a wide number of plans available for expats in Hong Kong with many different types of coverage. All of them will have coverage for medical emergencies, but some may have benefit caps or limits, or have networks of hospitals that accept payment from your provider. It is beneficial to know about this before any emergency, as it could help dictate not only how you claim, but also the best location to turn to when you need medical care.
If you have an international medical plan, there likely won’t be a need to worry, as most of these plans cover almost all of the hospitals here in Hong Kong and have high limits, which means you will be better able to find the best medical care when you have an emergency.
2. Have the contact information for both Pacific Prime and your insurance provider handy
Regardless of whether there is an emergency or not, you are going to need to contact your health insurance provider when you seek medical care. It would therefore be a good idea to have the contact information for Pacific Prime’s claims department (email: [email protected] and phone: 3589 0531) handy, as our claims department is here to help initiate and manage your claims.
As we mentioned above, it would also be a good idea to know the emergency contact information - usually a 24/7 hotline - for your insurance provider. This can be found on your insurance card, or the documentation included with your plan when you signed up. The other option is to contact us and we can help you contact the company.
3. Know where to find claim forms
When contacting your insurance agent or Pacific Prime, one of the first things you will likely have to do is to fill out a claim form for your medical care - this could be a pre-authorization form, or a reimbursement form for after you have received care. Sadly, there is no one form for every provider, so you will need the specific form from your provider in order to submit a claim.
The first place to find these forms is in the documentation that was provided when you joined the plan - many providers include a few copies of the forms so you may have one there. Alternatively, digital copies of the forms can usually be found on your provider’s website or employee portal (if you are part of a group plan).
Finally, as with the other steps above, you can contact Pacific Prime. We have access to all the forms you will need and can send them to begin filling out. Stay tuned to our website as well, as we will be launching a new ‘Claims Center’ in July 2015, which will host all of the claims documents you will need.
4. Find and plan routes to the nearest A & E department
Unlike other countries in the region, the private hospitals in Hong Kong do not have 24 hour A & E departments. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have 24 hour service, it just means that they don’t have specific A & E departments. If you need emergency medical care most private hospitals will send you to the nearest public hospital with an A & E department.
The same can be said for ambulances - when you call for one via 999 you will be taken to the nearest public hospital with an A & E department, of which there are only 17 with 24 hour emergency departments. This means it is a good idea to plan ahead and find the nearest public hospital with an emergency department, along with the route of how to get there. The best place to find this information is on the Hong Kong Hospital Authority website. This page has all of the information on hospitals with A & E departments, including contact information and address.
5. Know where to go if your child is sick
Not every hospital in Hong Kong has a pediatrician on staff around the clock, meaning that if your child is sick, you are likely going to have to go to the nearest A & E department, just as you would for an adult. Doctors there will make a decision to provide care or to call your pediatrician for advice or to come in.
What we recommend is talking to your child’s pediatrician during your next visit to get their advice on what to do in an emergency. They may have a recommendation as to which hospitals are best suited for different types of medical emergencies.
6. Plan for if you are unconscious
While this is a situation we hope to never be in, it is important to know what will happen if you are unconscious. The most important piece of advice we can recommend is to always carry your insurance card with you. If you are unconscious, staff at emergency departments are trained to go through pockets looking for both ID and insurance cards.
Aside from that, it would be a good idea to inform your family, domestic helper, and even close friends that you have health insurance, and have the relevant information easily accessible for them at home.
7. Develop an emergency plan
Finally, it would be a good idea to develop an emergency plan that combines all of the information above into an easy to read document that is kept in an accessible location. If you are prepared for an emergency, there is a good chance that you will be able to get care faster, and the claims process will go much smoother.
To learn more about how we can help, please contact our experts today.