Hong Kong is well-known for being an exceptionally popular destination for expats. It’s a bustling city with a vibrant culture, excellent food and great career opportunities for anyone wanting to embark on a new life overseas. It also has a very high level of healthcare that’s designed to be fair and accessible to all.
Classified as a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong is a large city-state with its own government, an independent healthcare system and a population of just over 7.6 million.1 According to the UN’s world population data, it’s also thought to have the longest life expectancy in the world at just over 85 years.2 This is testament to Hong Kong’s overall culture of health and wellbeing as well as its excellent standard of healthcare, which is easily accessible and available to everyone.
So, if you’re thinking of moving to Hong Kong, whether for the next stage of your career or for the rest of your life, you’ll find yourself in safe hands. We’ve put together an overview of the Hong Kong healthcare system to give you an idea of what to expect.
Hong Kong’s healthcare system as with many other destinations, it’s a dual system, consisting of both public and private healthcare providers. Each sector sticks to the highest possible standards, with well-trained healthcare professionals, many of whom speak English or a second language, as well as modern facilities and state-of-the-art medical equipment.
The public sector has over 40 hospitals – most of which offer a 24-hour accident and emergency service – and almost 50 specialist outpatient clinics. There are also plenty of healthcare centres that provide dedicated services like screenings and care for new and expectant mothers, as well as infants and toddlers.
Overall, Hong Kong has a well-regulated and highly regarded healthcare system that places a strong emphasis on patient-centered care and all-round health.
Hong Kong’s Health Bureau is responsible for developing and maintaining the region’s healthcare policies. It promises ‘lifelong holistic healthcare to every citizen of Hong Kong, and ensure[s] that no one is denied adequate medical treatment due to lack of means’.3 The public healthcare system in Hong Kong is, therefore, available to all citizens and eligible residents.
Public healthcare services and functions are jointly operated by the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA). The DH provides communities with a range of subsidised healthcare services through health centres and clinics. Meanwhile the HA manages all public hospitals in Hong Kong, providing outpatient, inpatient and emergency services, as well as specialist and rehabilitation services.
Any resident or citizen with a Hong Kong Identity Card is eligible to receive public healthcare services at a heavily reduced rate. Public healthcare is funded by the government and residents aren’t required to pay into the scheme through social security or any other mandatory insurance-based contributions. This also applies to expat residents who meet certain eligibility requirements.
However, if you’re not eligible, or you choose to use the private system, you’ll need to cover all your healthcare costs. As Hong Kong has some of the highest medical fees in the world, it’s advisable to make sure you have adequate healthcare cover to cover as much of the cost as possible.
In Hong Kong, the public healthcare system isn’t completely free, but it offers most healthcare services at a heavily discounted price to any citizen or eligible resident with a Hong Kong Identity Card.
Healthcare is heavily subsidised by the Hong Kong government, so residents only pay nominal fees for most services at a public hospital or doctor’s office. The government also doesn’t ask for any monetary contributions towards the public healthcare system, so if you’re eligible for public healthcare, your overall spend should be very low.
If you live in Hong Kong, you’ll need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for public healthcare at a lower cost. The good news is, you don’t need to have been there for a certain amount of time or be a permanent resident (who’s lived in Hong Kong for over seven years) to qualify.
What you will need is a Hong Kong Identity Card. These are mandatory for anyone over the age of 11 that’s permitted to stay in Hong Kong for more than three months. To apply, you’ll need your passport and the appropriate long-term visa, and this has to be done within 30 days of your arrival.
If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements for an ID card, you’ll be classified as ‘non-eligible’ for the public healthcare system. This means, while you can still be treated at a state-run hospital or clinic, you won’t have access to the subsidised rates so could pay four or five times as much for the same public services.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so make sure you check your eligibility before you arrive. If you’re not eligible for public healthcare, you might want to consider getting a healthcare plan to cover any healthcare costs. This would also give you access to private services where you can avoid waiting lists and get faster medical care. More information can be found on Hong Kong’s government website.
The Hong Kong healthcare system is first-class, but it does face a number of challenges. One of the most noticeable issues is the city’s lack of doctors. According to the government’s Health Bureau, the doctor-to-patient ratio in Hong Kong is around two for every 1000 people4. This is lower in comparison to leading healthcare nations like the US, the UK, Japan and Australia and there can be lengthy waiting times as a result.4
Doctors are registered as primary care providers, so they’re generally the first point of contact for any ongoing healthcare requirements. You can find a local doctor to register with by using the government’s Primary Care Directory. You’ll usually need to make an appointment well in advance when using the public healthcare system, as services are in very high demand.
Public hospitals, outpatient clinics and medical services in Hong Kong are organised into regional groups (or ‘clusters’), so any referrals or ongoing care can be managed efficiently and in the same geographical area.
Most of the hospitals in Hong Kong offer 24/7 emergency care, and the emergency services are generally very reliable. The phone number for all emergency services, including ambulances, is 999.
The Hong Kong public healthcare system doesn’t include dental care. So, except for any emergency care that might involve dental work in the hospital, you’ll need to find a private dentist and cover your costs out-of-pocket or with a private healthcare plan.
Most of Hong Kong’s dental clinics offer everything from standard procedures to cosmetic dental surgery. The costs vary wildly depending on the clinic, the services you receive and the dentist you choose, so it’s a good idea to confirm the costs in advance. Costs can add up if you need multiple appointments and services, so it’s worth considering a private healthcare plan that covers dental services.
Dentists in Hong Kong are private practitioners, but they are listed as primary care providers in the government’s Primary Care Directory. While there are plenty of private dental clinics to choose from in Hong Kong, you might find the number of options a bit overwhelming, so this directory makes it easier to find the services you need.
Hong Kong has plenty of pharmacies, which can usually be identified by a red-and-white cross sign displayed outside. Not all pharmacies will carry this sign, and it isn’t a guarantee of quality, so it might be worth asking a healthcare professional for recommendations on where to find a reputable pharmacy.
Pharmacies carry most prescription medications, though it’s worth noting that a medicine you’re familiar with might be sold under a different name, so you may need to check you’ve been given the right one.
Prescriptions can also be dispensed at hospitals and they usually qualify for reduced costs if you’re eligible under the public system, so may only incur a nominal cost. Private hospitals, on the other hand, will charge full price for the same medication.
As a rule, private healthcare cover isn’t mandatory for expats in Hong Kong. But it’s worth noting that certain visas might not be issued unless you have cover, or your employer includes some kind of private healthcare plan as part of your package.
It’s also worth noting that, if you don’t qualify for subsidised healthcare costs under the public system for any reason, you’ll have to pay. And Hong Kong has some of the most expensive standard and private healthcare costs in the world. You could therefore save a huge amount of money by ensuring you have adequate private health cover before moving to Hong Kong.
And even if you are eligible for the public healthcare system in Hong Kong, there can be very long waiting times for certain procedures and treatments. The exceptionally high standard of public services means it’s in very high demand from a growing – and ageing – population, so certain resources are very stretched. A private healthcare plan could give you faster access to medical care and provide a wider range of treatment options.
Ultimately, whether or not you need private health insurance in Hong Kong depends on your individual circumstances and healthcare needs. It’s worth checking your eligibility and exploring all your options before you arrive.
Hong Kong is a unique and vibrant destination, but there’s a lot to consider when moving there. With our annual healthcare plan, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. We’ll help you settle into your new life with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve always got somewhere to turn for help.
With the Virtual Doctor service, you can have a medical consultation with a real doctor wherever you are in the world – from the comfort of your home, hotel or office. Better still, there are doctors on call and available 24/7.1
Hong Kong is an unforgettable place to visit or call home. We want to make sure you enjoy every minute of it, with comprehensive healthcare cover that’ll give you access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world.
Virtual Doctor lets you speak to an experienced doctor on the phone or by video from anywhere in the world in a number of different languages, including English, Spanish and Mandarin.5
Provided we have all the right information, over 80% of all eligible claims are paid within 48 hours.6
From overnight hospital stays to ambulance transport, our comprehensive plans offer emergency cover as standard. And, with optional extras like dental care and out-patient services, you can choose a package that suits you.
Wherever you are in this vibrant and cosmopolitan city-state, the last thing you want is to worry about what might happen in an emergency. Our team can arrange for your evacuation and repatriation if you need to go further afield for treatment, if it’s not available at your nearest medical facility.
Hong Kong offers countless opportunities and a great work-life balance, but it could take a while to settle in. Our Mind Health service is here to connect you to qualified mental health experts for support if ever you need it. 7
Our second opinion medical service is here for those times when you’re just not quite sure. If you’d like to double check a diagnosis or recommended course of treatment we are here for you. 8
Whether you’re moving for a peaceful life in Palermo or beautiful Sardinia, our plans can be tailored to your needs, wherever the journey takes you. Here are some examples of who we cover:
Hong Kong is full of opportunities for any ambitious, adventurous professional looking to start a new chapter. Whether you want comprehensive expat health insurance, or you’re looking to supplement the healthcare scheme your employer provides, you can tailor your plan to suit your circumstances.
Hong Kong’s commitment to the health of its people makes it a popular destination for families to start a new life. If you’re planning a move, don’t let a health concern interfere with your experience. Our long-term international health plans will help cover you and your family throughout your time there.
With an excellent standard of healthcare and an all-round emphasis on healthy living and an active, outdoor lifestyle, many expats choose to remain in Hong Kong once they retire. Our plans can be tailored to include cover for prescriptions, annual health checks, palliative care and disability compensation.
*Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (GMT).
Calls may recorded and/or monitored for quality assurance, training and as a record of the conversation.
The Virtual Doctor, Mind Health and Second Medical Opinion services are provided by Teladoc Health.
The information in this article was correction at the time of publishing
Local insights have been provided by Oban International’s LIME (Local In-Market Expert) network’ - https://obaninternational.com/lime-network/
1 Worldometer – Hong Kong live population data
2 Macrotrends – United Nations – World Population Prospects
4 Health Bureau – Medical Registration Bill 2021
5 The Virtual Doctor service is provided by Teladoc Health. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation, but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Telephone appointments in Greek are available between 9am and 9pm EET, seven days a week. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 8am and midnight UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 8am and 8pm CET, Monday to Friday.
6 80.5% of eligible claims submitted online between January 2022 and December 2022 were paid within 2 days.
7 Service provided by Teladoc Health. This service provides you with access to six sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. Mind Health psychologist appointments are available in English and Spanish between Monday and Friday, 09.00 – 17.30 (UK time).
8 Service provided by Teladoc Health