Health Coverage Guide China

The health care system in China was largely privatized in the 1990’s so many Chinese must pay upfront and out-of-pocket for health coverage services at hospitals.


The permanent urban population, except migrant workers, takes out medical insurance. But the poor, many of them in the countryside, go into debt to pay their medical bills or go without treatment. The New Rural Co-operative Medical Care System (NRCMCS) was initiated in 2005 by the government to overhaul the healthcare system, particularly intended to make it more affordable for the rural poor.

For Chinese citizens under this system, the annual cost of medical coverage under the NRCMCS is 50 RMB per person. Of that, 20 RMB is paid in by the central government, 20 RMB by the provincial government and a contribution of 10 RMB is made by the patient. As of September 2007, around 80% of the whole rural population of China had signed up. (Expats are not eligible for government healthcare.)


Expats will need to get private insurance or pay upfront medical fees at public hospitals (affordable and of good quality in Beijing), which can be much less expensive than back home. Insurance is not legally required but highly recommended. International private insurance can be quite expensive depending on your age (over $1,000 USD per month if you’re in your 60’s for example), but most companies, including local ones, will provide health insurance as a benefit or help pay for health insurance.

Expats will routinely receive health insurance as part of their compensation package. However, if you are not employed by a company that provides health insurance and/or are looking to purchase your own, contact one of the private hospitals and ask about insurance brokers. There are many out there that deal with expatriate insurance.

Health Insurance Companies

No matter what kind of insurance you have, it is not necessary to affiliate with any one hospital or clinic. However, if you do not have insurance, you can sign up for membership at certain international hospitals that will then give you a discount for their services.

All private hospitals will likely accept your international insurance—the only benefit from certain hospitals over others in this respect is that some private hospitals have direct billing set up with many insurers so that there are no claim forms for you to deal with after a visit. Check with your insurance company or with the hospital you intend to use.