Should You Get Health Insurance in Hong Kong?
If you live in Hong Kong, deciding whether you need health insurance or not is very personal. Unlike countries like the United States or Switzerland, having health insurance is not mandatory in Hong Kong. It will mainly depend on your choice to use public or private healthcare facilities. It is important that you first understand how the system works, and the costs involved. Here are 3 factors to help you make up your mind.
Hong Kong’s Public Healthcare System: Pros and Cons
Hong Kong’s public system provides accessible, quality and cost-efficient care to its population. While its medical standards are very high, it’s not full of creature-comforts. It offers basic and quality services for an inexpensive price to Hong Kong citizens, permanent residents or non-permanent residents with a HKID. To sum up, anyone with a valid Hong Kong identity card can benefit from Hong Kong’s public healthcare services at a subsidised rate. (Public Charges – Eligible Persons)
For people without a valid HKID, for instance families visiting Hong Kong or tourists, you can access public service but the cost for non-eligible patients is similar to the costs in the private sector. (Public Charges – Non-eligible Persons)
Hong Kong’s public offer is quite broad and due to the relatively small size of the Hong Kong territory and excellent public transport system, it is easily accessed. It includes 43 public hospitals, 73 general out-patient clinics and 49 specialist out-patient clinics where you can receive comprehensive treatment options. Hong Kong’s public healthcare system is one of the best in the world, but there are some downsides.
➤ Delays in Hong Kong’s public healthcare system
The main problem is that the public system functions on a first come, first served basis. This means that you should prepare yourself to wait for a long time, whether you are going to the A&E or seeing a health specialist. For instance, the waiting time at most public hospitals can be very high depending on the periods. See here for a convenient, real-time check on how long you could have to wait. For relatively common surgeries such as cataracts, you will have to wait 8 to 30 months if you want to go in the public sector. This comes from a cruel lack of doctors. In Hong Kong there is 1.9 doctors per 1,000 residents, which means that 11,000 more doctors would be needed to go back to normal waiting times.
➤ Communication in the public healthcare system
Another challenge with Hong Kong’s public healthcare system is that not all health professionals speak English. While most medical doctors speak fluent English, some nurses may not (English prevalence varies greatly according to location). If you do not speak Cantonese, it may be difficult to communicate smoothly with all medical staff.
Because fees for eligible patients are so low in Hong Kong’s public sector, there would be no need for medical insurance if you only or primarily use the public sector. Indeed, you can then self-insure by paying out of pocket.
For your reference, here are some examples of healthcare costs in Hong Kong’s public sector (for holders of a HKID):
○ Admission to the Accident & Emergency Department → HK$180
○ Inpatient (acute general beds)→ HK$75 admission fee, HK$120 per day
○ Dressing or injection→ HK$19 per attendance
○ Geriatric day hospital→ HK$60 per attendance
○ General outpatient→ HK$50 per attendance
○ Specialist outpatient→ HK$135 for 1st attendance
Hong Kong’s Private Healthcare System: Pros and Cons
The private health sector in Hong Kong operates as a ‘business’. The incentive is to generate revenues and provide a strong customer-service model. Private providers in Hong Kong therefore compete on comfort, choice, wait times and quality of care.
There are 12 private hospitals in Hong Kong and one of the benefits of going private is the very short waiting time. Moreover, if you are looking for more comfortable rooms, to interact with fluent English speaking medical staff, and for more customer-friendly staff with more time to address your specific needs and preferences, the private sector will be your choice.
However, this level of service comes at a price. Hong Kong’s private healthcare system is the 2nd most expensive in the world after the U.S.
Here are some examples of costs in the Hong Kong private sector:
○ Accident & Emergency at Union Hospital and Gleneagles Hospital → HK$330 to HK$700 and HK$320 to HK$740 respectively
○ GP – average consultation in Central → from HK$500 to HK$950
○ Dentist – average consultation in Central → HK$650
○ Colonoscopy → HK$20,000
○ Hospital private room → HK$3,440
○ Maternity → Vaginal childbirth: HK$70,000–$100,000
○ Maternity → Emergency C-section (private room): HK$250,000
○ General health check-ups at Union Hospital→ From HK$890 to HK$9,450
○ Cataracts at Hong Kong Sanatorium → HK$27,000 – HK$30,000 (per eye)
Moreover Hong Kong healthcare costs are likely to increase especially for procedures that will embed today’s more frequent use of cutting-edge medical technology, like minimally invasive surgery.
For these reasons, if you plan to use mainly the private healthcare sector, it makes economic sense to get health insurance in order to cover potential medical costs. While some people rely exclusively on they work medical benefits, it is very important to note that in most cases, you lose those benefits when you leave your job. Should you or you dependents have any pre-existing conditions, it may be difficult or impossible to find individual medical coverage.
The Cost of Health Insurance in Hong Kong
Hong Kong being one of the most expensive cities in the world for private healthcare, medical insurance premiums are consequently very high. There is no free lunch. The more expensive the plan, the better coverage you are getting. Also beware of basic health coverage with several sub-limits, which you can easily reach when using private healthcare in Hong Kong.
Moreover, keep in mind that your health insurance premiums will increase each year because of age and that they are subject to local medical inflation, which was about 8% in 2018.
Whatever your needs and budget, it is always best to seek advice from a broker specialised in health insurance. Their job is to advise regarding your options, and take into account you and your family’s health, healthcare needs and budget. Importantly, your advisor should have an in-depth understanding of all the factors that can affect your premiums: area of coverage, benefits limits and extent, room type (private, semi-private), deductibles/excesses, co-payments/co-insurance, coverage of pre-existing conditions, and insurance contracts terms and conditions.
If you need health insurance, you can get a quote or speak with one of AD MediLink’s experts at email@example.com or +852 2296 9773. The AD MediLink team only focuses on medical insurance and is uniquely trained on Hong Kong’s healthcare system (public and private) to answer all your questions.
This article was independently written by AD MediLink and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.