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Healthcare in Hong Kong

Health Insurance and the Healthcare System of Hong Kong Explained

Unlike many expat destinations, Hong Kong has a well-established, low-cost public healthcare system which non-permanent residents are eligible for as long as they have a valid visa and ID card.

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Rest assured that when looking for high-quality healthcare, the system in Hong Kong will guarantee you are in good hands. Here, a lot of doctors speak fluent English, and many have received their training from top institutions in the US.

Both public and private healthcare are of high quality in Hong Kong. However, many expats still choose private health insurance whether they opt for it themselves or it is provided by their employer. The main reason for that is specific government requirements imposed on foreigners.

From finding a doctor to giving birth in some of the best hospitals, our overview of the Hong Kong healthcare system walks you through everything you need to know about staying healthy while living in Hong Kong.

How Healthcare Works in Hong Kong

Generally speaking, Hong Kong’s healthcare system is divided into two options: public healthcare and private medical care. If you choose to opt for the public healthcare option, you do not need private Hong Kong health insurance. The government provides all public healthcare services free of charge or for a small fee. However, if you choose to use the private system, it is essential to have a good private medical insurance, as your bills can be extremely high.

Does Hong Kong Have Free Public Healthcare?

There are no financial contributions to public health insurance in Hong Kong. The government simply provides healthcare for everyone at virtually no cost. This system includes not only Hong Kong citizens and permanent residents, but also non-permanent residents. Therefore, as soon as you are in Hong Kong with a valid visa and have acquired the Hong Kong ID card, you are eligible for public healthcare.

Hong Kong Healthcare System Explained

Public medical care is administered jointly by the Hong Kong Department of Health and the Hospital Authority.

All of the clinics, doctors, and medical staff of Hong Kong are organized in regional clusters, so that every district can provide specialist care to its residents. The Hong Kong public healthcare system provides a high level of medical standards and modern medical equipment. Most hospitals offer 24-hour accident and emergency services. Furthermore, there are a high number of maternal healthcare centers, which provide health screenings and care for women, infants, and toddlers.

What the public healthcare does not cover is dental care. You are only entitled to see a public dentist in Hong Kong in an absolute emergency. For all other cases, you have to seek treatment from a private dentist and take out an additional health insurance plan.

The downside of the public healthcare system is that it usually involves a lot of queuing and you should not expect a “customer-friendly”, patient-oriented mindset.

Some people might prefer being treated by one of the numerous doctors from Western countries practicing in Hong Kong. However, be aware that a Western doctor is likely to charge you two or three times as much as a local doctor. It is important to note that local doctors have the same qualifications and expert knowledge; most have even graduated from the same Western universities as foreign doctors.

Pros and Cons of Public Healthcare System in Hong Kong

Pros

Cons

  • Is virtually free
  • High-quality services
  • Excellent emergency and maternity care
  • Many doctors speak English
  • Does not cover dental care
  • Long waiting times
  • Doctors might treat their patients fairly straightforwardly

Hong Kong Healthcare Costs

Fees for public healthcare services are very low. A visit to a public outpatient clinic will cost you about 50 HKD (approx. 6.5 USD) for a check up at a general practitioner’s, 100 HKD (13 USD) for the first specialist consultation, and 60 HKD (approx. 8 USD) for a follow-up. In addition to the basic fees, you will be charged 10 HKD (approx. 1 USD) for any medication you might need.

For staying in a regular ward at the public hospital, you pay around 100 HKD (13 USD) per day, plus an admission fee of 50 HKD (approx. 6.5 USD). Thus, you should not be in need of a private Hong Kong health insurance.

For those residents who cannot afford even these moderate fees, the Hong Kong government provides a fee-waiving mechanism to make sure that nobody is excluded from the benefits of healthcare due to a lack of financial means. All of these public health services are also available for non-residents (e.g. tourists).

Hong Kong Healthcare Facts

  • Over 95% of people living in Hong Kong have been vaccinated against tuberculosis, streptococcus bacteria, polio, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
  • About 10% of Hong Kong’s population are smokers.
  • Life expectancy in Hong Kong is around 82 years for men and 88 years for women.

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An Overview of Private Health Insurance

The way how private health insurance works in Hong Kong is not much different from the rest of the world.It provides healthcare to those not covered by public healthcare and those who want more comprehensive care.

The majority of expats who work in Hong Kong have employer-provided medical insurance plans for themselves and their families. In fact, the Hong Kong government typically only issues visas for expatriates if their employers provide them with healthcare. This ensures the person will not be a burden on the public healthcare system.

Do You Need Private Health Insurance in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is among the countries with the highest medical costs in the world. As the public healthcare system might not be an option for all expats, purchasing private health insurance is definitely recommended. Furthermore, you might want to supplement your employer-provided insurance plan if it does not cover everything you find necessary.

Private Health Insurance Coverage

It is advisable to pay attention to healthcare coverage during contract negotiations, as healthcare plans can vary tremendously with respect to the treatments they cover. Some plans include dental care and maternity benefits, others do not. Sometimes you may have to pay a deductible, or the insurance plan will only cover a certain percentage of your medical expenses. Other insurance plans will limit you to certain doctors. Paying attention to this beforehand can save you a lot of money later on.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

There are innumerable offers for private health insurance in Hong Kong. You can usually choose between a local plan and international private health insurance. Local health insurance will cover only expenses incurred in Hong Kong, and premiums are based on local medical costs.

You might want to consider international health insurance if you are not staying in Hong Kong for a longer period of time. International health insurance plans are transferable to different countries, and premiums are usually based on the international level of medical costs. If you are already covered by international health insurance, find out if it is valid in Hong Kong.

While lots of expats prefer to use the private system for their healthcare needs, you do not have to stick to one option. For instance, an expat woman having a baby in Hong Kong can choose to see private doctors for prenatal care but give birth at a public hospital.

How Much does Health Insurance Cost in Hong Kong?

The insurance sector in Hong Kong is very competitive. Therefore, it is well-worth investigating different offers to get the best deal for your own medical insurance plan.

How much health insurance costs in Hong Kong usually depends on your age, pre-existing conditions, the provider of your choosing, and many other factors. The average cost for a health insurance plan for an adult around 30 years of age can be anywhere between 2,000 and 25,000 HKD (250 and 3,200 USD), depending on the details of your personal insurance plan.

How to Choose a Private Health Insurance Provider in Hong Kong

Here are some important points to take into consideration when choosing the right health insurance package:

  • Can you get coverage for your entire family? Are there family discounts? Can you choose different plans for each family member?
  • Are there overall annual limits to the services and costs covered?
  • Are co-payments required?
  • Will you get credit for hospital treatments so that you do not have to pay the bill yourself first?
  • What choice of hospital rooms do you have?
  • Do you have a free choice of doctors, or are services limited to certain doctors and hospitals?
  • Are extras such as dental care and maternity benefits covered? Is there a limit to the amount which is covered?
  • Does the insurance plan include free regular check-ups and prevention measures?
  • Is treatment with traditional Chinese medicine included?
  • Is a previous health examination required? What about pre-existing conditions?

Note that this list is far from exhaustive. It is highly recommended to seek advice from an expert with detailed knowledge in this field.

How to Get Health Insurance in Hong Kong

If you do not opt for settling-in services when relocating to Hong Kong, you will need to find your own health insurance provider. Food and Health Bureau of Hong Kong has set up Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) initiative to help you better understand the local health insurance market. This scheme allows for companies to voluntarily submit insurance policies and get certified according to the specific standards. All of the qualifying policies are listed on the website and presented next to one another, which makes it easier for customers to compare their options and choose the most suitable one.

The VHIS requirements for insurance policies are:

  • Guaranteed insurance renewal until 100 years of age
  • No lifetime benefit limits
  • 21-day-long cooling off period, during which you can cancel the policy and expect a full refund for premiums
  • Transparency and information accessibility of the scheme

The coverage of the health insurance plans has to include

  • prescribed non-surgical cancer treatments (radiotherapy, chemotherapy, etc.);
  • prescribed diagnostic imaging tests (ST, MRI, and PET scans);
  • day case procedures (such as endoscopy);
  • treatment of congenital conditions (manifested or been diagnosed since 8 years of age);
  • psychiatric inpatient treatments (covered up to 30,000 HKD (3,850 USD) per year).

The certified insurance plans also have to cover unknown pre-existing conditions (25% second year and 50% third year after you purchase the policy; 100% covered afterwards).

How to Find a Doctor or Dentist

There are a few online platforms out there that will help you find family doctors, dentists, and other medical specialist in Hong Kong.

Primary Care Directory is a government website that lets you search for a medical practitioner in your area. When searching, you can choose between looking for dentists, family doctors, specialists, or professionals practicing Chinese medicine. You can also specify the preferred gender of your doctor and see the doctor’s availability. The website provides the contact details of the doctors, their qualifications, their type of practice (public or private) and the hospitals they are affiliated with, the languages they speak, and, sometimes, the prices of the consultations as well as possible payment methods. However, the search engine does not specify the field the doctors are working in, so you will need to look through their credentials to know their specialty.

Hong Kong Doctors website does specify the doctor’s field. In addition to that, you can also search according to the area, the language they speak, the hospitals they’re affiliated with, and the costs for their services. The website provides you with contact details of the doctor or dentist and informs you of their schedule.

Websites like TopDocand FindDocnot only give you all the aforementioned information, they also allow you to book some of your appointments online. Both websites allow you to choose the doctor according to your insurance plan.

Average Wait Time to See a Doctor in Hong Kong

Median Waiting Time for Stable Cases (non-urgent)

Doctor Time (weeks)
Pediatrician 15
Gynecologist 42
Optometrist 56
First Time Visit/New Case 66

 

Waiting for a scheduled surgery can take a long while in Hong Kong. Waiting for a joint replacement surgery might take you 4-10 years,according to the government’s statistics, while the cataract surgery will make you wait from nine months to two years.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority provides a list of accident and emergency care (A&E) wait times in various hospitals around the territories.

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Giving Birth in Hong Kong

When giving birth in Hong Kong, both locals and non-residents can choose either public or private care. Both options provide a high medical standard, and you can be sure that you and your unborn baby are in good hands.

What Kind of Prenatal Services Are Offered in Public Hospitals?

The Hong Kong Family Health Service provides you with a comprehensive shared-care program. It is administered by Maternal and Child Health Centers (MCHCs) and includes routine check-ups, laboratory tests, and information on health issues during your pregnancy. If any abnormality is detected, the nurses at the Health Center will immediately refer you to an obstetrician at the nearest public hospital.

As soon as you realize that you are pregnant, you should schedule an appointment at one of the Maternal and Child Health Centers in your area. On your first visit, you will receive an index card where all your personal details and test results will be noted. Make sure to take this card with you to subsequent check-ups at the Health Center.

What Are the Prenatal Services Offered by Private Healthcare?

If you are a foreigner who would rather make use of private prenatal care while having a baby in Hong Kong, you can find qualified specialists in the Hong Kong Medical Association’s directory. You should also seek advice from other expats and ask them which doctor they recommend.

Your private doctor will provide you with a full range of prenatal care and, if you choose to give birth at a private hospital, they will be present at your delivery. However, you should expect to pay between 800 and 1,000 HKD (100 and 130 USD) for every check-up appointment (this does not include additional testing and ultrasound exams).

There are no “public” midwives in Hong Kong. However, there are private midwives who will assist you during and after the birth of your child. You can get more information from the Hong Kong Midwives Association as well as the Midwives Council of Hong Kong.

The main benefits of giving birth in Hong Kong are:

  • High quality medical services
  • Excellent hospitals
  • Possibility of your child getting permanent residence in Hong Kong

How Much It Costs to Have a Baby in Hong Kong

As mentioned earlier, medical costs are fairly high in Hong Kong and having a baby there is no exception. The price depends on which hospital you choose, how complicated you birth is, and how long you need to stay in the maternity ward. Usually the sum rangesfrom around 20,000 to 45,000 HKD (2,500 to 5,750 USD) for vaginal birth or 60,000 HKD (7,700 USD) for a Caesarian. Some hospitals require deposits as well, so make sure you decide on where you want to give birth in advance.

You should check very carefully if maternal healthcare is included in your personal Hong Kong health insurance plan. Some insurers may require you to extend your regular plan to include maternal care and pay an additional premium. Others may cover it only in part or have a cap at a certain amount.

Giving Birth in Hong Kong without Health Insurance

If your private insurance does not cover the costs or if you do not hold any private insurance at all, the public system of prenatal care may be the better option as it is free. The only expenses in this case will be the cost of the hospital ward (around 100 HKD (13 USD) per day) and the administrative fee (around 75 HKD (10 USD)). Some expats choose to get prenatal care from a private doctor yet give birth at a public hospital. This is an option if you want to keep costs low.

Citizenship and Giving Birth in Hong Kong

Birth tourism to Hong Kong is popular amongst parents-to-be from Mainland China. A child who is born in Hong Kong to parents with Chinese nationality is automatically granted permanent residency in Hong Kong. The benefits of permanent residence in Hong Kong include excellent medical care during the birth, as well as some advantages later in the child’s life —easier, visa-free travels abroad as well as free education.

Newborns of expat parents from whom at least one has the right to abode in the country are granted permanent residence in Hong Kong as well. However, it only lasts up until they turn 21. If they wish to continue being Hong Kong residents after that, they need to apply for permanent residence themselves.

If neither of the parents have acquired permanent residence in Hong Kong, their child will need a visa. In order to obtain one, you will need to apply to the Hong Kong Immigration Department. Contact your country’s diplomatic mission in China for more information.

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Updated on: July 18, 2019

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