You’ve accepted a job teaching English in China and see that along with a salary, your contract comes with health insurance. Sweet! That eliminates the need for you to have any extra health insurance, right? Don’t be so sure.
Most ESL jobs in China advertise any open teaching positions as having benefits such as flight reimbursement, paid time off, and even health insurance.
While most of these perks are great, the truth about insurance coverage is this:
Most schools provide little detail about their insurance plans and what is covered in your employment contract.
Having been witness to friends who have had medical emergencies in China, I find the reality of what ESL employers consider health insurance alarming.
For this reason, I want to share with you some tips on how to determine how comprehensive your employer’s health insurance coverage is to help you determine if you need to invest in extra health insurance in China.
As one China expat travel expert noted: “Health insurance is essential.”
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to purchase an item listed below.
Evaluate Your Current Health Coverage in China
A good strategy to adopt when speaking to any hiring manager on your health insurance package is to ask a considerable list of hypothetical scenarios.
They should cover really common instances such as:
- If I get an infection and require antibiotics, would this insurance plan cover my trip to the doctor as well as prescription medication?
- Can I use this insurance to buy over and behind the counter medications at any Chinese pharmacy?
- If I were to get sick while traveling to another province, will I have coverage for medical expenses?
You should also follow up with worst-case scenarios such as:
- How much will the policy cover if I break my arm?
- How much will the health insurance cover if I’m in the hospital for a week?
- What if I need to be evacuated out of the country or even die in China? What will the insurance cover?
How to Get Real Answers in China
Getting real answers can sometimes seem impossible in China. I know how you feel!
Do your best to ask more open-ended answers as yes/no questions are easy to answer.
Get details when asking these questions, don’t settle for easy answers. You can easily respond saying your acceptance of the contract is dependent on honest and complete answers. This will encourage the hiring manager to do their homework on the policy.
Additionally, it couldn’t hurt to ask for the health insurance policy. It’s likely going to be in Chinese, but if you have a Chinese friend, they can review it and help you determine the quality of coverage.
If you don’t have a Chinese friend, are unable to read Chinese, or simply aren’t satisfied with the answers from the hiring manager, I’d check out these traveler’s insurance plans that we recommend here.
Do I Really Need Traveler’s Insurance in China?
What happens if you discover that your employer’s health insurance plan doesn’t cover as much as you’d like?
Should you invest in additional health insurance?
My personal response is that it is a big risk to live uninsured in China and one of the biggest mistake visitors to China make.
You also shouldn’t expect your own insurance policy at home to cover you while in China.
It is true that trips to the hospital for illnesses like the common cold are cheap. But the reason why you should have traveler’s insurance in China aren’t to cover small expenses; it’s designed to cover worst-case-scenarios like emergency evacuation.
Emergency evacuation is where you would need to leave China due to a medical emergency like serious spill or illness. The fee out of pocket also amounts to over $100,000.
Emergency evacuation is also one of the most frequently covered items on all quality traveler’s insurance policies.
But what are the odds that you will need to be evacuated?
In all honestly, the odds are in your favor. But accidents do happen and my colleague at my school could have really benefited from traveler’s insurance when a medical emergency landed him in the ICU and cost him tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills in China.
Because he didn’t have traveler’s insurance, it took a GoFundMe fundraiser and lots of personal loan money to finally get him on an emergency flight back home.
Fortunately my friend is continuing to recover and receive quality care, but the medical expenses his family currently face could have largely been offset from traveler’s insurance.
How to Find a Suitable Traveler’s Insurance Policy in China
While deciding you need traveler’s insurance in China is easy, finding a quality policy isn’t.
That’s why we’ve made choosing a plan easy by reviewing the top traveler’s insurance policies out there.
Overall, there are a couple things to be mindful of when selecting a traveler’s insurance plan as a foreign teacher in China.
- Traveler’s health insurance generally covers short-term trips. For foreign teachers, look into long-term coverage plans that span your entire contract term in China.
- 24-7 hotlines can save you trips to the doctor and offer support in English. This is a must-have.
- Emergency evacuation is a must on any policy.
- If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, contact your preferred provider to verify coverage.
- If doing lots of traveling during your trip, look for a policy with all the bells and whistles such as lost/stolen luggage and region specific activities like scuba-diving.
Lastly, you will need to do some research on your part to determine if a plan supports your needs in China.
While I’ve personally used and recommend World Nomads, it’s not always the right fit for everybody. Never rush into purchasing a plan!
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Final Thoughts | Insurance for English Teachers in China
My hope with this article is to get you to think intentionally about your insurance as an English teacher in China.
Check your contract and talk to your employer to see what their insurance covers and don’t be surprised if it’s not as much as you think.
Invest in your own safety net by researching extra insurance coverage that will care for you once your employer’s insurance runs out.
At the very least, you’ll want to make sure you have emergency evacuation insurance to get you back home in the case of a bigger health problem.
If you are still on the fence on whether you need traveler’s insurance in China, you can read more reasons why you should invest in a good policy here.