Those of us living in Hong Kong are fortunate to have access to affordable universal healthcare via the city’s network of government hospitals and public health clinics. However, most of us will opt to supplement this with the reassurance and convenience of additional private health insurance. Here’s some basic information about both options to help you make the best choice for your family when it comes to healthcare in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong government provides residents with an excellent – and highly affordable – health service. The statistics back this up; Hong Kong’s life expectancy is currently among the world’s highest, and it also has an extremely low infant mortality rate. This is in no small part down to the SAR’s world-class healthcare system, which has helped to lead the way in medical developments worldwide.
The city’s public doctors are all highly qualified, and government medical staff include all the specialist practice areas that you would expect to find, along with a quintessentially Hong Kong addition – TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. Finding your preferred doctor is easy; simply log on to the government’s Primary Care Directory and select your specialist. Antenatal and postnatal care, well women services and childhood vaccinations take place at 34 dedicated Maternal and Child Health Centres across the SAR. When attending an appointment, you’ll be asked to register with your Hong Kong ID and pay a small fee, usually by cash or Octopus card.
In an emergency, you’ll be transferred by ambulance to the nearest public hospital for treatment. With 17 of the 42 public hospitals across Hong Kong providing Accident and Emergency services, and air ambulance services available to assist with evacuation from Hong Kong’s less accessible regions, you’re never too far away from help. Hong Kong’s A&E care operates on a triage basis, and is charged at a flat rate of $180 per visit. Once assessed by a doctor, if you’re subsequently admitted to hospital, you’ll be charged a $75 admission fee, then $120 per day, payable by cash or Octopus card.
Part of navigating healthcare in Hong Kong is understanding the private system. Of course, the demand for public healthcare can translate to long waiting times, particularly for non-critical services, which is where private health insurance can prove invaluable.
There are innumerable private healthcare practitioners in Hong Kong, and access to their services will depend in no small part on your individual insurance coverage. Some insurers will insist on using a pre-approved panel of physicians, whereas others will allow patients free choice of doctor according to their policy’s financial limit. Opting to visit a private doctor will usually mean that you can choose your specialist according to your own needs and schedule, with shorter waiting times than in the public system. Before booking your appointment, check with your insurer to confirm your coverage limits and payment methods – some policies will offer pre-approved direct billing, whereas others will require you to pay upfront and then reclaim your costs later.
All of Hong Kong’s 11 private hospitals are internationally accredited and have excellent facilities. Many provide 24-hour outpatient services for urgent cases and can arrange transfer to a public hospital for accident and emergency services if necessary. Many of Hong Kong’s private hospitals are renowned for their specialist areas of expertise, including obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology, to name a few. As with private doctors, you should always confirm the hospital’s billing process with your insurer, and check that any extras, such as medicines, private accommodation or out-of-hours surgery are covered.
Check here for lots more useful information, including links to all the private and public hospitals in Hong Kong.
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This article first appeared in the Expat Living’s annual City Guide. Get your free copy now!