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China – Health Insurance

As an expat living in China, it is important to understand the healthcare system in the country, including health insurance. This article will provide information on whether health insurance is mandatory in China, how the state health insurance system works, and what it covers. It will also provide a step-by-step guide on how to apply to join the state health insurance system in China. Finally, it will highlight the advantages of international private medical insurance for expats living in China.

Health Insurance Requirements in China

Health insurance is mandatory for all residents of China, including expats. In fact, it is a requirement for obtaining a residence permit in the country.

State Health Insurance System in China

The state health insurance system in China is divided into two parts: the Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI) and the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NRCMS). The UEBMI is for urban employees and the NRCMS is for rural residents.

Both schemes are funded through a combination of individual contributions, employer contributions, and government subsidies. The schemes provide coverage for a range of medical services, including inpatient care, outpatient care, emergency care, and prescription medication.

It is important to note that while the state health insurance system provides coverage for a wide range of medical services, the level of coverage may not be sufficient for all medical procedures. Some expats may choose to have additional private medical insurance for greater coverage and benefits.

Applying for State Health Insurance System in China

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply to join the state health insurance system in China:


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  1. Determine your eligibility: To be eligible for the UEBMI, you must be an urban employee who is employed in China. To be eligible for the NRCMS, you must be a rural resident who is registered in a rural area.

  2. Obtain a Social Security Card: You will need to obtain a Social Security Card from the local Social Security Office. This card will be used to access healthcare services and to make contributions to the health insurance scheme.

  3. Choose a medical institution: You will need to choose a medical institution that is registered with the health insurance scheme. This can be a hospital or clinic that is located near your place of residence or work.

  4. Complete the registration form: You can obtain a registration form from the medical institution or from the Social Security Office. Fill out the form and attach the necessary documents, such as your passport and work permit.

  5. Submit the application: Once you have completed the registration form and attached the necessary documents, submit the application to the medical institution or the Social Security Office.

  6. Wait for approval: The health insurance scheme will review your application and determine your level of coverage based on your contributions and eligibility. You will receive a health insurance card in the mail, which you can use to access healthcare services.

It is important to note that if you are employed in China, your employer will automatically enroll you in the UEBMI and deduct contributions from your paycheck.

Advantages of Private Medical Insurance in China

While the state health insurance system in China provides coverage for a range of medical services, some expats may choose to have additional private medical insurance for greater coverage and benefits. Here are some advantages of having private medical insurance:

  1. English-speaking doctors: Private medical insurance may offer access to English-speaking doctors, which can be helpful for expats who are not fluent in Mandarin.

  2. Greater flexibility: Private medical insurance provides greater flexibility in terms of choosing healthcare providers and treatment options.

  3. Additional services: Private medical insurance may provide coverage for additional services, such as dental care, vision care, and alternative therapies.

  4. Coverage outside of China: Private medical insurance may provide coverage outside of China, which can be useful for expats who travel frequently or have family members living in other countries.

  5. No waiting periods: Private medical insurance may have shorter or no waiting periods for certain medical procedures, which can be beneficial for expats who need immediate medical attention.

It is important to research and compare different private medical insurance plans before choosing one. Consider factors such as coverage, premiums, deductibles, and exclusions to find the best plan for your individual healthcare needs.

Health insurance is mandatory for all residents, including expats, in China. The state health insurance system provides coverage for a range of medical services, but some expats may choose to have additional private medical insurance for greater coverage and benefits. Understanding the healthcare system in China, including the state health insurance system and private medical insurance options, can help expats ensure that they have access to the medical care they need while living in this dynamic country.


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