Is it true that Hong Kong provides free public healthcare even to non-permanent residents? How come that expats often have an expensive private international health insurance in Hong Kong? These are only two of the questions often asked on expat forums when it comes to Hong Kong health insurance. As the healthcare system is very different from that in many other countries around the world, it is important for expats to familiarize themselves with some basics.
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 a private Hong Kong health insurance. The government provides all 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 Hong Kong health insurance, as your bills can be extremely high.
If you work for a big company while living in Hong Kong, your employer will often provide you with an adequate Hong Kong health insurance. If this is not the case, you have various possibilities to get your own private insurance. Choosing the right Hong Kong health insurance is a very complex subject. As we are not legal experts on Hong Kong health insurance, we will give you an overview of some important points to pay attention to when choosing your private health insurance. For your final decision on which health insurance to choose, we still recommend you to seek expert advice.
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 or 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. Public medical care is administered jointly by the Hong Kong Department of Health and the Hospital Authority.
The public healthcare system includes a high number of outpatient clinics, specialist clinics, and more than 42 public hospitals in Hong Kong, not to mention various doctors and health specialists. All of them are organized in regional clusters, so that every district can provide specialist care to its residents. Furthermore, there are a high number of maternal healthcare centers, which provide health screenings and care for women, infants, and toddlers. The one thing the public system does not provide 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 Hong Kong public healthcare system provides a high level of medical standards and modern medical equipment. However, going to a public clinic usually involves a lot of queuing and you should not expect a “customer-friendly”, patient-oriented mindset. Another reason that often keeps newly-arrived expats from using the public system is the fact that nurses and other staff are not necessarily fluent in English.
Fees for public healthcare services are very low. A visit to a public outpatient clinic will cost you about HKD 100, including emergency visits. In addition to this basic fee, you will be charged HKD 10 for any medication you might need. For staying in a regular ward at the public hospital, you pay around HKD 100 per day, plus an admission fee of HKD 50. 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, for example, tourists.
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