Whether you’re already living in Hong Kong or planning to relocate there, here is all the information you will need about the local healthcare system.
Hong Kong excels in healthcare
The statistics on healthcare in Hong Kong are really reassuring for expatriates living in or planning to relocate to the country. Indeed, Hong Kong boasts one of the healthiest populations in the world due to its fantastic healthcare system.
In 2020, Hong Kong was ranked as the location with the second most efficient health care in the world according to Bloomberg, and the world's highest life expectancy in 2021 according to Worldometers. What makes Hong Kong's healthcare system unique is that it sports a dual-track system, with high-quality healthcare offered by both public and private facilities.
Public and private healthcare in Hong Kong
Between public and private facilities, Healthcare in Hong Kong is incredibly accessible, offers a full range of medical specialties and is more than capable of providing high quality care by personnel proficient in Cantonese, English or Mandarin.
Public healthcare facilities are run by 2 major government organisations, the Hospital Authority and the Department of Health. The Hospital Authority operates 43 public hospitals, 73 general outpatient clinics (GOPCs), and 49 specialist outpatient clinics (SPOCs) which are organized into geographical clusters. Services in clusters are structured with the purpose of ensuring patients can receive the full course of care for their medical issue, from onset to follow-up, close to where they live.
Additionally, there are additional community medical clinics run by the Department of Health which tend to focus on more specific medical areas, such as women's health and elderly care.
Pros of the public system
Public healthcare is heavily subsidised by the government, making treatment incredibly affordable for eligible people, which by and large means people holding a valid Hong Kong ID card. From Accident & Emergency care, to planned treatments, the costs of treatment are extraordinarily low and the government also provides a fee waiving mechanism for vulnerable groups. For instance, a stay in a public hospital would be only HK$100-120 (US$13-15.50) per day after admission costs as an HKID holder, versus HK$5,100 for a non-eligible person.
|Service||Fee in HKD|
|Accident & Emergency||$180 per attendance|
|Inpatient (acute general beds)||$75 admission fee, $120 per day N1,N2|
|Inpatient (convalescent / rehabilitation, infirmary & psychiatric beds)||$100 per day N1,N2|
|Specialist outpatient (including allied health clinic)||$135 for the 1st attendance, $80 per subsequent attendance, $15 per drug item N5|
|General outpatient||$50 per attendance|
|Dressing or injection||$19 per attendance|
|Psychiatric day hospital||$60 per attendance|
|Geriatric day hospital||$60 per attendance|
|Rehabilitation day hospital||$55 per attendance|
|Day procedure and treatment at Clinical Oncology Clinic or Renal Clinic||$96 per attendance|
|Day procedure and treatment in ambulatory facility||$195 per attendance|
|Community nursing service (general)||$80 per visit|
|Community nursing service (psychiatric)||Free|
|Community allied health service||$80 per visit|
Cons of Hong Kong's public system
Given its high level of subsidies, public healthcare facilities are understandably well-trafficked, especially hospitals. In fact, approximately 90% of inpatient treatment is done in public hospitals, compared to about 32% of outpatient treatment in public facilities. This is despite the fact that the Hospital Authority only employs around 40% of the doctors in Hong Kong.
A chronic issue in Hong Kong has been the understaffing of public hospitals, which combined with the heavy usage of public facilities has a number of effects. Primarily, it leads to a longer wait when seeking treatment. Patients have to be triaged into urgent, semi-urgent or non-urgent categories and not just for Accidents & Emergencies, but for scheduled treatments at specialist outpatient clinics. For instance, new bookings for surgery at a specialist outpatient clinic can take less than a week for patients triaged as urgent, however for stable cases the median waiting time ranges from 26 to 59 weeks.
Additionally, it means that when visiting public healthcare services, you will not be guaranteed to see the same doctor you saw the previous time so they will be less familiar with your case than a doctor you choose yourself and see repeatedly.
Hong Kong also has a robust selection of private medical providers. On top of 12 private hospitals, there are hundreds of private outpatient facilities from neighbourhood GPs, to specialist clinics, diagnostic centres and laboratories across Hong Kong. You can find the full range of medical specialists for inpatient and outpatient care, including traditional Chinese medical practitioners which have been a regulated part of the Hong Kong healthcare landscape since 1999.
Pros of the private system
With private healthcare you can be assured your appointments will be with the doctor of your choice, which can help build trust and a better understanding of your medical needs. It also means that any tests, treatments or surgeries can be scheduled much quicker than they could be through Hong Kong's public healthcare system. Additionally, private facilities and especially hospitals in Hong Kong tend to focus on a more comfortable experience, from rooms to food options, they provide a level of service that overworked public hospitals cannot provide.
Cons of private facilities
The downside is that private healthcare in Hong Kong is extraordinarily expensive. A trip to the GP can range between HK$250-1000 which may be manageable, however if you need repeat visits for outpatient treatment or consultations, then the costs can quickly add up.
Anything that requires surgery or hospitalisation can easily start to cost tens of thousands of dollars. Maternity packages start at HK$20,000 at the low end, although this excludes doctor's fees, with more complex conditions such as cancer having treatments that run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is why many people in Hong Kong take out private medical insurance to help cover the costs of private hospitals and clinics. There are of course ways to help reduce the costs of private care in Hong Kong though.
Local vs international health insurance
The biggest advantage of local health insurance policies in Hong Kong is that they are often a lot cheaper than international ones. Premiums are often calculated according to the number of claims that have been made by the patient, resulting in cheap policies for perfectly healthy people. Also, if you travel frequently, you have to note that local policies may not cover you outside Hong Kong, so you will probably have to subscribe to an additional travel insurance policy.
More often than not, if you have a medical issue, private hospitals and doctors will be able to take care of it immediately. You will have a larger choice of hospitals, practitioners and treatments. Many international plans will also provide you with repatriation and emergency evacuation.
More importantly, international insurers have a network of hospitals where your bills can be settled directly, so you won’t have to pay any of your medical fees in advance. And finally, if you subscribe to a portable insurance policy, you will also be able to keep your insurance whether your move to another country, go home or simply retire. For a more in-depth look at some of the differences between local and international health insurance policies and what you should consider when comparing them, click here.
International health insurance designed for people in Hong Kong
APRIL Hong Kong has designed MyHEALTH for you and your family, which will provide you with a comprehensive and fully flexible cover for all your medical expenses in Hong Kong and abroad. Our packages can be tailor-made to suit your every need, they are fully portable and you won’t have to pay any medical fees in advance if you are admitted to a hospital. To make your life easier, we also created the Easy Claim app which will allow you to send us your medical claims by smartphone and receive your reimbursement in only a few days.