Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Tip Tuesday - Beware of Sharks

Apologies for the fact that most of my Tuesday Top Tips come quite late in the day - this one being no exception. We are finally doing swimming lessons and by the time we get home we are in desperate need of an afternoon nap. So, late it may be, but here's today's Top Tip.

Many of the companies in Hong Kong that recruit expats offer insurance as part of their juicy expat-enticing packages. Dental and medical coverage is a big plus, as healthcare here isn't cheap. While the public system is world-class, many expats prefer the private clinics with their more Western-style approach. Unfortunately the private system isn't always perfect. There's this crazy pricing system here that takes advantage of those with a little money (or great insurance), and if you stay in hospital in a private room you'll pay more for everything. For some reasons specialists find it necessary to charge more for the inconvenience of walking a little further down the hall.

There are a number of reputable medical groups, like Quality Health, that have offices all over town and agreements with particular companies or insurers (they're called panel doctors). You would think that this makes it somewhat easier to find a "good" doctor but unfortunately there are some doctors within practices who look at you as walk in the door with your insurance card, and dollar signs appear in their eyes. Other doctors are endorsed by insurers but work independently. Many of them assume that because you have an insurance package you must surely be a wealthy expat, and will find the loopholes in the system to try and charge you for things that aren't covered by your insurance, like obstetrics and pregnancy. When I was first pregnant with my son I went to see a doctor who had, a few weeks earlier, given me a physical. I went along to get the results of my physical (which should have been a freebie) and mentioned that I had since fallen pregnant. She did nothing to confirm that I was pregnant, gave me no prenatal advice, and yet charged me for a prenatal visit. I've heard so many similar stories over the years, like the friend who was charged for two consultations because the doctor asked him how his wife was doing since giving birth - she wasn't even in the room! You also need to be wary of those who want to run every test in the book simply because it IS covered by your insurance. An MRI is great to rule out serious injury, and it's brilliant that it's covered, but they are offered far more often than is necessary here.

The good news is that there are some great doctors and specialists here, many of them expats themselves. The best way to find one that you can trust is through expat forums or word-of-mouth. These are also great resources for helping you avoid the dodgy ones. For the record, I like a couple of practices here that have family doctors and a few specialists under the one roof. If you haven't found a doctor you like try Central Health (they also have practices in Discovery Bay and Repulse Bay) and O,T and P. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any recommendations.

1 comment:

  1. Many expats do not have large medical packages (such as myself) and I have been completely satisfied with the local or public health system. We go to a lovely GP/pediatrician who was trained in Canada and charges a quarter of what those at Central Health do. Both my daughters were born in public hospitals, and my youngest who continues to have follow ups with around five different specialties does so in the public system as well. I think if we went private for all our medical needs, we would have been bankrupt by now ;) The more stories I hear about the private hospital system over here, the more I like about the public. The ONLY thing that I don't like is the long wait time - but you often get that in private as well. The doctors in the public system are world class though.