With year-on-year rising medical costs and expenses, expats in Hong Kong, the wider Asian region and around the world are coming under increasing pressure to find an appropriate health insurance policy that balances coverage with affordability. Sadly, most people know very little about their current medical plan, its terms and conditions or the coverage it affords. Complicated wording and industry jargon tend to confuse people right from the start. Few customers will actually sit down and read their policy before signing it, and this can sometimes cause trouble for further down the line. But don’t stress: health insurance need not be an additional complication in your life. If you know very little about medical insurance, plans or coverage but need to renew or purchase a policy, use our guide which can help you to find the plan that will meet all of your insurance needs.
1. Why health insurance is important
Understanding the benefits of health insurance and then making them work for you is of crucial importance in finding the ideal plan. Rising medical costs are obviously an important consideration, but equally if not more important are the risks to health without adequate cover. In Hong Kong, poor air quality and pollution are contributing to increasing numbers of people suffering from respiratory-related illnesses. Without health insurance, standard consultations and treatments for minor respiratory illnesses at some of the city’s largest hospitals and medical centers can be expensive. Comprehensive testing and possible inpatient treatment at a medical facility can quickly run into the thousands and tens of thousands of Hong Kong Dollars. Having an insurance plan that adequately protects you against the biggest health risks you face in a certain location or at a certain time is strongly advised.
Medical expenses in Hong Kong are among the highest in Asia, and indeed around the world. For expats, health insurance is absolutely vital. If your company provides you with a standard health insurance plan, lucky you. But if not, the cost of the plan will be one of your first considerations. Fortunately, brokers, intermediaries and advisors will assess the type of coverage you require and then offer suggested plans and policies that are most suitable to your needs. There is no need to break the bank for a plan that provides full and complete medical coverage worldwide, including the U.S.A. Country or regional plans are possible and will help to keep costs down. It may also prove less expensive to pay for the plan in one payment, as opposed to monthly, quarterly or half-year payments.
3. Know your jargon
To the frustration and bewilderment of some, health insurance plans are full of industry-related jargon. Words and phrases such as exclusions, pre-existing medical conditions, deductible, moratorium, benefits, provisions, premium, copayment and coinsurance can all leave customers feeling a little confused. Knowing the meaning of these words can go a long way to helping the policyholder understand the terms of their plan and the coverage it provides. It can also help reduce the customer’s premium or amount they are required to pay for the insurance. Deductible, for example, is a set figure/percentage or monetary amount which the policyholder themselves pay towards the cost of medical treatment. A large number of providers offer discounts to customers that take up the option of higher deductibles with their plan.
4. Coverage levels
Once we are happy with the type of plan we need, we can then focus on the level of coverage required. One of the main benefits of working with reputable brokers and providers is that they can offer plans tailored to suit the individual, family or corporation. For example, an individual seeking a standard medical plan can include other additional options such as dental or travel. A couple can add maternity coverage to their plan, and so on. Tailoring is provided to customers to allow them to ensure they have the optimum levels of coverage with their plan. If your provider or broker allows their plans to be tailored, by all means take advantage of it.
5. Beware of surprisingly inexpensive plans
We cannot stress enough the importance of using reputable insurance providers or brokers. We have all heard and read the horror stories of people travelling overseas with what they thought was comprehensive cover, only to find that their so-called plan wasn’t worth much in their time of need. In almost every country around the world, emergency medical treatment for non-residents is extremely expensive. Every year, thousands of people become liable for costly medical treatment because their plan did not provide them with appropriate coverage. If a plan promises everything but turns out to be alarmingly cheap, what you’re hearing isn’t the chime of a great deal -- it’s the sound of warning bells. That old maxim - you get what you pay for - is most appropriate. Always use internationally renowned companies that have built up a good reputation and solid client base.