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Author Topic: Hospitalized in China  (Read 9583 times)

Foscolo

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Hospitalized in China
« on: March 21, 2008, 01:40:20 PM »
I didn't see anything on this here, but apologies if this topic has already been well covered.

A couple of years ago my girlfriend (now wife) broke her ankle in the foot-sticking-out-at-weird-angle kind of way which is pretty much how you most don't want to break your ankle.

We got a taxi to the main city hospital. I assumed that we would then hand over insurance documents, and everything would be taken care of. Wrong! They wanted 4000RMB in cash up front before they'd so much as open a packet of Band-aid.

Luckily we had viable visa cards and knew where an international ATM was, so I got into another taxi and headed off across town, leaving Mrs F. sitting on a bench trying not to scream.

What followed was a genuine Third World hospital experience. One highlight was the daily visit of Stinking Mop Lady, pushing a bundle of foul-smelling rags on a  stick around, leaving a trial of putrescent slime. Another treat were the regular rubber-gloves-on rectal examinations of the patient in the next bed, 18 inches away - no curtains.

I could fill pages, but the point I want to make is this. In the event of a medical emergency, it can be really handy to have genuinely instant access to some cash. Once you're checked in to a hospital, you may well be able to rely on your employer and/or insurance company if you have one to smooth the way, but that's going to take time to organize. In the first instance Mr Visa or Mrs Mastercard could be the best friends you ever had.

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Schnerby

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2008, 09:45:10 PM »
Oddly enough I had a similar experience...

I was hospitalised in Hangzhou with acute cholecystitis (or to the rest of us, a sore tummy). Apart from the little flyswat hanging above my bed there was certainly no creature comforts. My parents and a translator had to keep going deep into the bowels of the hospital to pay for doctors, tests and medicines before they could be given to/visit me.

I had a chest x-ray and since I couldn't stand up unassisted my Dad had to hold me up. He didn't get a radiation apron and I wouldn't be surprised if that bugger sterilised everyone in a 5m radius.

I got moved to the nearby American hospital (my parents became thankful for all the medical insurance) and conditions were no better. I was sick in my bed so the kind cleaner wiped my sheets, put a piece of paper over the wet bits and spread the rest around the floor. They were determined to give me a blood transfusion but I tested my theory that you cannot give a moving person a needle. It worked.

If we had no cash on us I was pretty much screwed. If I had nobody with me to do the running about, I was also screwed.

At least an ambulance took me, my parents, a translator, my teacher and a nurse back to a hotel when I was discharged cheaper than a taxi.

We did get our costs back (plus a profit due to exchange rates) no thanks to the illegible doctors certificate. I might start running a little scheme. Or perhaps not.

So the short version is they want cash, not insurance papers or pleas for mercy.

MK

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2008, 11:16:56 PM »
I broke my ankle here, and was told via translator at the first (local) hospital I visited that I needed an operation to fix it, or else I would be unable to walk for months, it would never heal properly, I would have problems for the rest of my life etc.  This would require a month or more hospital stay, they told me.

This hospital specialized in limb injuries, by the way.  The place was packed with what I assume were migrant workers who had suffered rather more serious mishaps than me.  Not a pleasant experience.

Anyway, I was dubious about the operation, and visited a specialist in Shanghai for a second opinion(= EXPENSIVE).  He told me it was a straightforward break which did not in fact need an operation at all, just 8 weeks in a cast (he also replaced the rather shoddy original one I had been given).

I was back at work on crutches in just over a month and the cast came off no problems after the 8 weeks.

So, yeah, beware.  And have good medical insurance.

AMonk

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2008, 05:23:16 AM »
And have good medical insurance.

What insurance Companies do you all recommend?  And how much does it cost?
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dragonsaver

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2008, 08:10:24 AM »
And have good medical insurance.

What insurance Companies do you all recommend?  And how much does it cost?

More than I can afford so I don't have any in China. llllllllll
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MK

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2008, 09:59:44 AM »
Yeah, I think it's pretty expensive, but my school pays. I work for a joint venture, and one of the perks is that we get cover through an international company (AXA).  Before I got this job I was either not covered or reliant on the local cover many Chinese unis offer.

AMonk

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2008, 10:39:30 AM »
Just got my ExpatExchange newsletter, with a contact for health insurance info.  I checked it out.  Looks pretty good...considering.  Hubby and I could both be covered at a total cost of about $400 per month.  Individual coverage (in our respective age brackets) runs between $167 and $267 a month.  If you're interested, they're at http://www.internationalhealthplans.com . And you don't have to be any particular nationality to apply, either.
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Foscolo

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2008, 01:55:24 PM »
If you'll be in China for no more than a year at a stretch, you could consider backpacker-type travel insurance for medical care only. That can work out relatively cheap - maybe $800 for 12 months - check around via Google for the best deals. Premiums can vary widely so it's well worth being persistent. If you include baggage cover, the premiums tend to shoot up.

Returning to MK's point about unnecessary treatment, my wife was endlessly hooked up to drips, subjected to injections and given dozens of pills. This seemed strange for a broken ankle, so I asked the opinion of a doctor contact back home, and his opinion was that none of it was likely to be necessary, and it should all be refused. My wife did this, and immediately started to feel better. It seems they were filling her up with garbage so they could put it on the bill.

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old34

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2008, 02:33:16 PM »
Zhejiang Province Foreign Experts Bureau now requires schools to provide medical insurance for their Foreign Experts through PICC (Peoples Insurance Company of China). PICC has set up a group plan for the Zhejiang FEB. The medical insurance provision is now specifically included in the contract and, as well, the FEB requires proof of insurance through the program before it will issue a Foreign Expert Certificate.

For China, the benefits are quite good. Much better than  the usual go to the school clinic and we'll take care of it. You get to name a hospital in your locale as your primary care-giver (as long as it's on their list). And it includes some major medical, some accidental death benefits and a small life insurance component.

It is very similar to the general policy that PICC has created for (and I Quote) "Comprehensive Medical Insurance for Foreigners and People from Hongkong,Macao and Taiwan" which can be found on PICC's website. The address is here:

http://www.picchealth.com/english/tabid/496/InfoID/439/frtid/371/Default.aspx

You can get a chinglized idea of the benefits, limits and exclusions there.

The cost of that program is 1680 RMB/year as of last fall. If you have no other options (and your school isn't providing you anything), you might want to check out that IN China policy. The cost for a year is about a one month premium back home.

The Zhejiang FEB group plan has a bit more liberal limits. But my FAO told me the cost to the school was almost the same. In other words, the schools pay about 1600 RMB per teacher for inclusion in the group plan.

She also told me that other provinces are considering a similar scheme. So it may be coming to a neighborhood near you soon if you work in schools subject to your local/provincial FEB.

But again, if you missed it, if you want a cheap, in China med plan, the PICC plan is available to any individual who qualifies as a "Foreigner or people from Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan" (sic).

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. - B. O'Driscoll.
TIC is knowing that, in China, your fruit salad WILL come with cherry tomatoes AND all slathered in mayo. - old34.

dragonsaver

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2008, 09:06:30 AM »
It is compulsory for us to have insurance at my Uni.  The school charges us 200RMB for the year and they pay the rest.  I haven't used it but some teachers never got reimbursed for their expenses.  Maybe the school not the plan though.
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Lotus Eater

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2008, 10:02:09 AM »
My university provides coverage - but they did make sure that the couple who came who are in their late 60's-early 70's had US medical insurance.

If FTs sick we are taken by the FAO to the Shaanxi Provincial Hospital, and if possible seen in the "Foreigners and Government Leaders" section of the hospital.  One of the FTs spent a week hospitalised there - and the FAO picked up the total cost.  For minor things - X-rays that I had on my knee and ankle last year, the FAO paid, and for being on the drip etc again the FAO paid the cost of medicine, and equipment.

If it is really minor - flu or la duzi the FAO takes us to the university clinic and again pays for whatever is needed.

Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2008, 01:30:48 PM »
Like many of you, I also have no medical insurance at all. Flying among the trapezes without a net. aoaoaoaoao

Foreign medical insurance, at least a policy that's worth a damn, is NOT cheap if you've already passed the sweet side of 35 years of age.
But for me the real value of having it would be that if you ever have a truly serious medical problem, you can go to a place with real doctors (such as HK or Japan) and be covered.
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Foscolo

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2008, 04:34:11 PM »
My wife had a major ankle reconstruction operation and was in hospital for three weeks. The bill was around 3,000 US dollars, but at least half that was for upgrading to a private room on the lucky rich bastards VIP floor when one became available about a week into it.

Obviously that kind of fee is not peanuts, but it's probably not going to ruin your life, either. (Although that's not necessarily the case if you're Chinese, of course.)
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Raoul F. Duke

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2008, 08:55:03 PM »
For many teachers $3,000 USD is the equivalent of 3-5 months' salary.
Having to cough that up unexpectedly could be pretty ruinous. Sure would be for me... alalalalal
"Vicodin and dumplings...it's a great combination!" (Anthony Bourdain, in Harbin)

"Here in China we aren't just teaching...
we're building the corrupt, incompetent, baijiu-swilling buttheads of tomorrow!" (Raoul F. Duke)

AMonk

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Re: Hospitalized in China
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2008, 10:56:02 PM »
Foreign medical insurance, at least a policy that's worth a damn, is NOT cheap if you've already passed the sweet side of 35 years of age.
But for me the real value of having it would be that if you ever have a truly serious medical problem, you can go to a place with real doctors (such as HK or Japan) and be covered.

And that is covered by the Company I checked out.  Apart from which, I don't see much difference between the China policy and the other one....apart from co$t.

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