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It is one of the most common dilemmas when you need to go to the hospital in Asia: will you choose a public or a private one? In this new episode of Abroad With Care, Andrea interviews Sam Cooper, CEO of CCW Global, a leading health insurance broker, to help you make an informed choice. 

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Can you first give us a quick overview of the differences between private and public hospitals in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand?

One of the key differences is the experience and what it looks like when you first get there. Private Hospitals are much nicer and have more modern facilities. They are often compared to “hotels”. That is probably due to food differences and concierge services. You will find several classes of rooms: private rooms where you will be completely on your own, semi-private rooms with maybe 2 or 4 patients and wards. In public hospitals, the majority of the room classes are wards where you can have 10 or 15 people.
Another main difference is the language. At Private Hospitals, English is the primary language. At Public Hospitals in Hong Kong, although English is spoken, the main language is Cantonese. Expats can have difficulties with this and often want to completely understand specialist medical terms in their own language. You do not want any grey area.
Finally, the big difference is about costs. In Hong Kong, if you hold a Hong Kong ID card and live in Hong Kong, the public is essentially free of charge. You will pay HK$80 a day, no matter what you have done. This is only in a wardroom.

>Read: Six Tips to save Money on Medical Expenses in Hong Kong

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Are there any other differences that expats should be aware of?
Some other differences would be bedside manner, which is very important for expats, especially if you have young children. Public hospitals’ primary objective is to save your life and treat you as quickly as possible. They want you your bed to be free for the next unfortunate person. Private hospitals spend a lot more time with patients. They will explain all procedures, medication, and treatment options available.
Talking about life-threatening emergencies. What are the differences there? 
Private hospitals are not really set up for life-threatening emergencies. If you call an ambulance in Hong Kong, calling 999, you will be brought to a public hospital.
What would happen then?
Let’s say you have a heart attack. Someone call an ambulance for you and you will be taken to a public hospital. They will save your life. But once you are stabilized, if you want to find out why you had a heart attack, they will tell you to come back in six weeks or three months for a scan because you have a long queue ahead of you. Therefore, you may want to go to private for follow-up tests and surgeries.
In case of non-life-threatening events, your daughter broke her leg for example, how would you choose between private and public hospitals? 
I would choose to take her to a private hospital. You do not want to encounter any language barrier, especially with a child. My daughter is 6, she is terrified of doctors and surgeries, so the bedside manner is also a big advantage of private hospitals.
Now, the cost comes into it. We have private health insurance, and we will take advantage of a Letter of Guaranty or LOG. A LOG enables the insurance company to pre-approve the treatment. The insurance will pay the bill to the hospital directly.
What are the differences between Singapore and Thailand?
Singapore is very similar to Hong Kong. Private hospitals are a bit cheaper than in Hong Kong. Both cities have fantastic doctors, equipment and facilities.
Some people who are not insured would fly to Bangkok for non-life-threatening issues. In Thailand, treatments are much cheaper compared to Hong Kong and Singapore. Even when you include flights and accommodation, the total price for your surgery in a private hospital would be lower.

At APRIL International Care, we are specialist in designing and delivering flexible international health insurance for individuals, families and companies in Asia. For more information, explore our MyHEALTH plans for expats in Asia. 

You can contact our different offices around Asia and request a quote, our experts will be happy to assist you!

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