Public healthcare in China has improved greatly in recent years and a large portion of the population is now covered by the public system, including expats. The quality of treatment varies greatly depending on location: the best public hospitals are in China’s bigger cities.
Treatment in public hospitals is heavily subsidised by the government, but long queues and slow service are the norm. Most doctors and nurses cannot speak English so a knowledge of Mandarin or a friend/translator may be necessary.
VIP wards in public hospitals
Large public hospitals in big cities cater to foreigners with VIP wards. These are sections of the hospital that offer quicker, high-quality services and have English-speaking doctors, but they are not covered by public healthcare.
Private insurance plans can include VIP ward coverage, particularly those offered by Chinese insurance companies. Plans from international providers can also provide coverage, but expats will likely have to pay for any treatment out of their own pocket and claim reimbursement later.
Private and international hospitals
The quality of care in China’s private and international hospitals matches international standards. Typically wait times are short, facilities are high-quality and modern medical equipment is available. Doctors in these hospitals have generally trained abroad and can speak English (and sometimes additional languages).
Private facilities are equipped to bill international insurers directly, so with an international medical insurance plan, you don’t have to pay for care out of your own pocket (unlike in VIP wards). A lot of expats also opt to use private or international hospitals as continuity of treatment with a single doctor is available.