Understanding the Basics of China’s Health Insurance System

Understanding the Basics of China's Health Insurance System

Introduction to China’s Healthcare System

If you’re considering moving to China, it’s important to understand the basics of the china health insurance system. While China is home to some of the best and most advanced medical care in the world, like any country, medical costs can be expensive – so understanding a bit about their health insurance system will help you financially should the need arise.

At a basic level, all citizens and foreigners in China are required to have some form of health insurance coverage. This requirement is based on the “Chinese Health Insurance Law”, which states that all individuals and companies that operate in China must have acceptable proof of insurance coverage for employees as well as their dependents.

The main form of public health insurance available in China is provided through the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS), which covers 95% of rural residents and over 70% of urban residents. The NCMS provides basic coverage such as hospital visits and preventive care, but it doesn’t cover non-essential services such as dental treatments or cosmetic surgery.

In addition to public health coverage, many employers offer more comprehensive private health plans that cover additional services not covered by public insurance plans. Private health plans vary depending on what type of plan you choose and how much out-of-pocket expenses you’re willing to pay, but they generally feature lower premiums and greater flexibility regarding where and when you can receive medical care.

Overview of China’s Health Insurance Plans

Navigating a new health insurance system can be intimidating, so let’s look at the basics of China’s health insurance plans. It’s important to note that the type of plan you choose can have a significant impact on your health care costs, so take the time to learn which one best suits your needs.

In mainland China, there are three main types of health insurance plans:

  • Basic Medical Insurance (BMI) is mandatory for all Chinese citizens, as well as any foreigners working in China. BMI plans are designed to cover basic medical expenses like hospitalizations, medical treatments and prescription drugs.
  • Commercial Insurance is optional and provides coverage beyond what is provided by BMI. This type of plan typically covers additional treatments such as dental care, home nursing and alternative medicine.
  • Critical Illness Insurance is an optional policy that pays out a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or disability. This type of policy can help you cover the costs associated with expensive treatments in serious cases.

By understanding the different types of health insurance plans available in China, you can make an informed decision that best meets your needs and budget.

Benefits and Drawbacks of China’s Health Insurance System

You might be wondering about the benefits and drawbacks of China’s health insurance system. To start, the main advantage of China’s health insurance system is that it provides residents with access to affordable healthcare. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security sets reimbursement rates for providers according to the government’s assessment. This helps keep overall facility costs low so that healthcare services are affordable for patients.

However, there are some drawbacks to this system as well:

  1. The reimbursement rates set by the government are still considered low by many in the medical field—doctors may not be willing to accept patients on these plans because they don’t cover the full cost of care.
  2. The system is also heavily reliant on out-of-pocket payments, meaning that even if you have health insurance, you may still end up paying a large part of your medical bills out-of-pocket.
  3. In addition, coverage can vary greatly depending on where you live and your particular insurance plan, which can cause confusion and frustration when trying to access care or understand what’s covered under your plan.

How to Apply for Health Insurance in China

Before you can apply for health insurance here in China, you’ll need to take a few steps to get started.

Get a Residence Permit

Anyone who is looking to get health insurance needs to first get a residence permit. You can do this by providing documents such as your passport, visa, and a valid Chinese ID for the registration process. You can also register online or at a local police station.

Choose an Insurance Plan

After you have your residence permit in hand, the next step is to find an insurance plan that fits your needs and budget. You can choose from public or private medical insurance plans in China and it’s important to read the details of each plan carefully before signing up.

Submit Your Application

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to fill out the application form and submit it to the health insurer. Make sure all documentation required is completed along with accurate personal information on your application form and payment of premiums before submitting it. The insurer will then review your application and let you know if it has been approved or not.


Understanding China’s health insurance system is an important part of living in China and accessing quality healthcare. With the right information, you can make the best decisions for you and your family’s healthcare needs. It’s important to remember that the Chinese health insurance system is not the same as the one in your home country and that there are certain policies and requirements you need to be aware of.

With the right knowledge and preparation, you can navigate the Chinese health insurance system and be ready for any health-related emergencies that may come your way. By understanding the basics of China’s health insurance system, you can make sure you and your family are taken care of, no matter what.


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