Shanghai expatriate health insurance

Expatriate health insurance in Shanghai

You plan to move to Shanghai, or you have lived there for a long time. It is important to obtain good expatriate health insurance to make the most of Shanghai health system. The care provided is of high standard with state-of-the-art equipment, but not all hospitals are made for expatriates. This makes Shanghai a good health system that you need to know in order to avoid finding yourself in a delicate situation. Good expatriate health insurance is also necessary to access the different care options.

Public health system


Shanghai’s public health care system is very qualitative, as is the private sector. Its biggest advantage over the private sector will be its cost. The public hospital is much cheaper than the private one, where a consultation will cost about 40 RMB. Public hospitals are usually equipped with VIP clinics that offer similar services to private hospitals, but here cost at least RMB 500 for a consultation.


The biggest disadvantage of public hospitals is their extreme saturation. It exists because they attract the majority of the 23 million Shanghainese but also people living close to Shanghai. If they are able to take you in charge quickly in an emergency, the deadlines for non-emergency situations are important. It is also almost impossible to make an appointment if you do not speak Mandarin. A language barrier is present in public hospitals as few people speak English well. Finally, the comfort of public hospitals is not for everyone: crowded rooms, few services: for example, you will have to bring your own toiletry.

Private Health System


As for the public, the quality of care here is high, even more so because they equip themselves with the latest equipment, useful for complex procedures. The private sector is much less congested than the public and allows for rapid care. It is possible to make appointments online or by phone, and to choose your doctor. The staff generally speaks English well, and the services offered are close to those of a luxury hotel.


The biggest shortcoming of these hospitals is the huge costs. All the more so since they will try to achieve the maximum possible care or examinations to raise the bill. We have to see this health care system as a business: They charge every services, and their goal is to earn money. So you have to be careful about what the hospital offers you, so as not to exceed your insurance limit.

The importance of expatriate health insurance

Although the public service in Shanghai is effective, it is important not to make the mistake of leaving without insurance. The public manages well urgent care, but we recommend the private sector for any consultations or other care. The notion of comfort is not to be taken lightly here and public hospitals can be complicated to bear, private clinics are recommended. Private hospitals have high prices, this means you need to take a good expatriate health insurance that can cover you completely. Insurance provided by companies is typically not sufficient compared to private sector costs.

Which expat health insurance to choose in Shanghai?

Local insurance

The advantage of local insurance is that it is much cheaper than international insurance. The coverage is limited to Shanghai, which reduces the risk for the insurer, because it does not cover you in case of travel abroad. Local insurance is generally unsuited to the care habits of expatriates and is not sufficient for private medicine.

International Insurance

These insurances will cover you in most countries of the world. They also generally have repatriation and emergency evacuation insurance that can be useful in the event of an accident abroad. The ceilings are also much higher and allow for a wider choice of the practitioners you want to consult and the treatments you want to receive. Finally, the network of third parties paying for these insurances is highly developed.

Complementary to CFE

As a French citizen or spouse of a French expat, it is possible to subscribe to the CFE. Our guide on the CFE here. This can be an excellent value for money compared to other insurances. They have a low price, with a small annual increase and wide coverage.

How do I find an insurance?

You will have understood that you should not rely on the public service, and expatriate health insurance in Shanghai is important to have access to the private system. There is no plan that is better than others, everything will depend on your needs and constraints. The best option is to use an insurance broker.

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