Guide to Global, International Health Insurance for Expats

Are you an expat in Hong Kong who needs global medical coverage? Are you a digital nomad who travels frequently or lives abroad? Compare the best international health insurance plans at GoBear for free.Get an instant quote and choose your right plan now!


Health insurance in numbers

In 2014, less than 30% of hospitalized patients chose private hospitals while the remaining 70% chose public hospitals for their medical services, according to a survey conducted by the government, showing staggering demands in public medical services.

While almost half of Hong Kong citizens own a health insurance plan, more than one-third of them are provided by employers, which might be uncomprehensive for catering their different needs.

Things you need to know

Health insurance is a common insurance product aiming to provide financial protection during illnesses or hospitalization. There are two major ways for claiming health insurances. Either the insured person would be reimbursed fully or partially for their medical treatments and hospital charges after providing relevant receipts, or the insurers settle the bills directly for the payers.

Having 164 public hospitals and clinics and 12 private hospitals, Hong Kong is at the forefront of medical technology. All holders of Hong Kong identity card are entitled to use the city’s high standard public medical services with affordable pricing.

With low medical manpower and surging demand, however, patients very often have to wait for a long period of time when visiting public hospitals. For specialist services, patients even have to wait for months, if not years before seeing a doctor, ranging from 44 to 144 weeks according to the latest schedule, delaying necessary treatments. Manpower shortage at public hospitals has also inevitably dampened the quality of patient support and it is not uncommon to see patients sleeping outside the wards during peak seasons.

To have greater flexibility, many Hong Kong residents would prefer visiting private hospitals or clinics, where they could enjoy personal tailored medical services, yet deterred by the high price tag. Purchasing a medical insurance can allow one to leverage the benefits of private healthcare services, without worrying a hefty bill stemming from your illnesses and diseases.

The biggest difference between these two products would be on their payment processes.

Health insurance provides financial subsidies based on actual treatments and hospital charges, while critical illness insurance provides patients a direct lump sum cash payment when diagnosed with critical illnesses.

The coverage of health insurances includes all necessary medical actions, covering both minor and critical illnesses (except for any specific exclusion, such as pre-existing conditions and AIDs).

Critical illness insurance, as the name suggests, covers only critical illnesses and diseases, such as cancers, heart diseases, stroke, kidney failure and transplantations of major organs, with possible limitations on the extent and types of illnesses. For example, critical illness insurances may not cover carcinoma-in-situ and early cancers of certain body parts. It’s thus crucial to fully understand the coverage before choosing a critical illness insurance product.

As the deadliest disease in Hong Kong, cancer could potentially entail a significant amount of medical expenses. Cancer insurances could provide financial supports specifically for cancer patients. Cancer insurances could be further divided into cancer health insurances and cancer critical insurance, with similar differences on payment process as health insurances and critical illness insurances. Comparing to typical health insurances, cancer health insurances offer higher claiming amount, yet covering only the treatment costs for cancers.

Major Differences between International and Local Health Insurance Plans

  • Covering locations

International plans may provide coverage in different countries in the world. If you are living abroad, an expat or a digital nomad, a global health insurance plan can protect you from breaking the bank because of the sky-high medical expenses overseas.

Based on your personal needs, you can choose the right areas to be included in the plan, from your country of residence to your frequent travel destinations, plus any relocation plans or personal preferences of places you would like to receive medical treatments.

  • Coverages

Many supplements could be included for a more comprehensive coverage in an international health insurance plan, such as dental care, maternity, cancer coverage, surgery, mental health, medical evacuation, expatriation costs, etc. There should also be an option to expand the coverage to include family members.


It is always important to identify which services and supplements you need in your health insurance. Always keep in mind to ask the health insurers or brokers questions about the insurance plan.

Here is a list of questions to ask before choosing a global health insurance policy:

  • Does it fit the specific needs of you and your family?
  • How are pre-existing conditions handled?
  • Are there any age restrictions?
    Check if the company cuts coverage after a certain age.
  • What international coverage does it provide? Is worldwide coverage available?
  • What are the claim exclusions?
  • What are the processes to access health services abroad and how do you make a claim?
    This is crucial if you’re travelling often or a digital nomad. Your international health plan should be easily accessible no matter where you are.