Living in China Blog
June 26, 2008 – Yesterday, a good friend of mine was unfortunately hospitalized due to illness. In China, the less Chinese you appear, the more that Chinese-run hospitals will attempt to charge you. (I myself had this experience with a hospital in Shanghai two years ago in regard to surgery to set a broken bone.) My friend, who is white, initially went to the VIP (read “foreigner”) department of a well-known hospital in Shanghai. They told him that he would need to provide a deposit for treatment of RMB 100,000 (US $14,000).
Fortunately, he was with his Chinese girlfriend. They went to an adjacent building (same hospital), in which the staff agreed to admit him for a negotiable RMB 50,000 deposit. In actuality, it was not a deposit at all because they admitted him before taking much payment. Within several hours, the treatment price the girlfriend and the hospital were negotiating was in the range of RMB 20,000 to 30,000. Moreover, the room he received is not that bad (despite not being in the “VIP” department) – it is a modern, clean private room with its own bathroom.
My friend (who is American) does not have international health insurance. His experience highlights the advice Healthline Asia provides in its article on health insurance for expats in China. Having an insurance company that deals directly with the hospital would eliminate much of the hassle he experienced. Moreover, if the company does overpay, that’s their problem – not yours’. Had he been insured properly, he could have been admitted sooner, rather than having to yell and scream (while very ill) at the staff for a while. That is a perfect example of why expats and foreigners living in China should have health insurance coverage.