All you need to know about International Health Insurance

Back to list 2019-09-04 17:21:20

When you decide to enroll into an international health insurance, most of the time it involves a long time thinking process. Indeed, some international health insurance plans can be high-priced and therefore shall be selected carefully. Moreover, you want to be sure to choose the right coverage for your specific needs. Living away from your regular settings and understanding of the healthcare system can be challenging.

In order to help you fully understand your current or future International Health Insurance plan, MSH China has decided to help you see clearer in those sometimes opaque terms.

What is inpatient and outpatient? What is direct billing? Co-payment?

These are some of the questions frequently asked by our members.

International Health Insurance: what is that?

The aim of an International Health Insurance is to cover you, your family or your employees over long-term trips abroad and/or expatriation. International Health Insurance can provide reimbursement for many different types of events that can be incurred during the policyholder's travels abroad, including health care and other medical expenses.

Compared to Europe where “free” and universal healthcare system is the norm, public health care system in China is still far from it. A minor surgery in China without insurance coverage can be very expensive and upfront full payment is usually necessary. This is why it is important for a person to be insured in order to avoid paying thousands of yuan, or have to go back home or worst, skip a medical emergency due to financial concern.

International Health Insurance plan reimburses your healthcare expenses incurred abroad almost at the same level as you are accustomed to in your home country. Sums assured are usually way higher than a travel insurance and coverage is usually extended too.

International Health Insurance covers:

  • Medical visits

  • Hospitalizations and medication

  • Medical assistance

  • Repatriation

Other benefits can be added such as maternity, vision, dental and wellness. The International Health Insurance plan designed by MSH China together with local insurance companies offer different options of geographic coverage (from Mainland China to Worldwide).

What is outpatient? (FR: médecine ambulatoire/ IT: trattamenti ambulatoriali)

The first question you’ll be asked when choosing an International Health Insurance plan is whether you desire to have inpatient coverage only or both in- and outpatient. What are they actually covering?

Outpatient means daily treatment received from doctors or specialists, including prescriptions and related exams (X-ray, blood test, RMI etc.) as long as symptoms are shown. This is typically referring to occasions when a patient attends a hospital for treatment without staying overnight.

You need to see a dermatologist because your skin’s been itchy for the last few days = outpatient

You have fever, sore throat, back pain or any other body pain = outpatient

What is inpatient? (FR: hospitalisation/ IT: trattamenti ospedalieri)

Inpatient are treatment that require a hospitalization or surgery. That also includes critical illnesses such as cancer and its related cure. The patient is admitted to the hospital for at least 24h.

Planned surgery, emergency etc. = inpatient

Geographic Coverage

When you enroll into an International Health Insurance plan, your agent will propose to you different zones of coverage, depending on your needs.

Worldwide plan

The worldwide plan has no geographic restrictions and provides coverage in any country in the world.

International plan

The International Plan provides coverage for medical treatment throughout the world, with the exception of the United States and Canada.

International Plus plan

The International Plus plan is designed to provide the same benefits as the International Plan. In addition, the International Plus plan provides medical emergency services in the United States and Canada.

If you have an emergency while you are in USA, a broken leg for example, you will be insured.

Greater China plan

The Greater China Plan provides coverage for medical treatment within Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

Greater China Plus plan

The Greater China Plus plan is designed to provide the same benefits as the Greater China Plan. In addition, the Greater China Plus plan provides emergency coverage outside Greater China region.

Mainland China plan

The Mainland China plan provides coverage for medical treatment within Mainland China.

Mainland China Plus plan

The Mainland China Plus plan provides coverage for medical treatment within Mainland China. In addition, the Mainland China Plus plan provides emergency coverage outside Mainland China region.

What is deductible?

Another important point to consider when you’re looking for a health insurance is the deductible. Indeed, this can make the price of your premium (the monthly fee or annual fee for your insurance) varies significantly.

Deductible is a fix amount of money you will pay for a health insurance claim before the insurance coverage come into effect and the insurance company starts paying for you. Once you have paid your deductible, the insurance company will pay for the rest of the claim value up to the policy limits according to the policy terms and conditions.

For example, if you have a deductible of $100 and you plan to have a surgery next week that will cost $300. How much will you have to pay?


This kind of deductible is what we call “per claim deductible”, all your medical expenses are covered per treatment. Usually, the most common solution.

Annual deductible is the second option you may choose. All your medical expenses are covered during the policy period after you reached your annual deductible amount. Any amount in excess of the annual deductible will be payable by the insurance company.

For example, if you chose an annual deductible of $15,000 and you need to have a surgery which costs $14,000, you will pay the entire bill all by yourself without the intervention of your insurance company. But if you may have other medical expenses the same year which is $30,000 for example, you will have to pay $1,000 in this case (14,000 + 1,000 = 15,000 annual deductible).

What is co-payment?

Another way to reduce your premium is with co-payment. As compared to deductible, which is a fix amount of money, co-payment is based on a percentage you choose to pay for any medical expenses.

For example, if you choose a co-payment of 20%, you will always have to pay 20% of the bill with the remaining amount being paid by the insurance company. No matter if it is $200 or $1,000,000 medical expenses.

Provider coverage:

International Health Insurance plan generally offers 2 options for provider coverage:

Public hospitals & Private hospitals/clinics: any treatment, medical visits or surgery in a top public or private hospital/clinic will be covered by your plan. Many public hospitals have a “VIP wing” or “International wing”. Private hospitals have of course better facilities, English-speaking doctors and staffs, providing a similar level of service that as if you would receive back home.

High-cost providers: this option allows you to go to private high-cost hospitals/clinics. This option increases your premium.

What is direct billing?

Direct billing is an arrangement between hospitals/clinics/doctors and a health insurance company. This method authorizes the medical service providers to send their bills directly to the health insurance company for payment. The patient is not billed and not required to file the claim. In addition, there is no need for advanced payment either.

At MSH China, we have a direct billing provider network spanning across more than 70 cities in Mainland China with +1,100 providers, which is one of the largest network in China.

What is wellness?

Wellness is an optional benefit that covers preventive tests or treatments such as annual check-ups and vaccination.

More questions?

Please feel free to ask us if you have any other questions concerning international health insurance that might not have been explained above. We will be more than happy to answer!

About MSH China

Founded in 2001, MSH China is a French international company specialized in high-end insurance services for corporate and individual clients. Our multicultural International department is dedicated to serve foreigners living in Asia. Leader in China, our reputation has been made from our efficient customer service and call center, a large hospital network and a cost sensitive approach. 


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