Health travel in China seems to be growing a lot, but many countries still struggle with getting Chinese patients. Where are they? Chinese patients “hide” in our health insurance system, that is, the social health care system. China’s social health care system has three levels of funding:
- The bottom level – funded by urban-rural medical assistance and donations led by the government
- The backbone level – funded by the Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance (UEBMI), the Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance (URBMI) and the New Rural Cooperative Medical Insurance (NRCMI), which is led by the government and taken out by individuals and organizations, and
- The supplement level – funded by serious illness medical insurance and commercial health insurance taken out by individuals and organizations.
Those who purchase commercial health insurance are on the supplement level, and they are so-called international patients when they travel abroad for health demands. That is one angle to view the market. The China Tourism Academy issued the Annual Report on China Outbound Tourism Development 2019, which stated that outbound tourism volume had reached 149 million tourists in 2018 who spent US$ 130 billion, with 3.83% of them have gone to Europe.
Please be noted, the number of 149 million tourists amounts to 10% of the Chinese population. About 20% of them are veteran travellers. In comparison to that, 90% of the Chinese people, which is 1.3 Billion, do not even have a passport or travel abroad experience. The Chinese government has been working on expediting the passport issuing process, and the estimated data from Ctrip suggested over 240 million by the end of 2021. That means more than 200 million Chinese people could travel abroad, in theory, with a passport and proper visa. Clearly, an increasing number of Chinese people can afford to travel overseas for treatments. It is vital to pay attention to the business growth from the new travellers in the following years.
Other numbers released on 4 December 2020 by the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China showed that by the end of August 2020, there were 35,000 hospitals in China, including 12,000 public hospitals and 23,000 private hospitals, if we round them up. The number of private hospitals is almost twice of public ones. Moreover, compared with the end of August 2019, the number of public hospitals in China decreased by 88, and the number of private hospitals increased by 1,471.
All these numbers are rough but objective and could help you look at the market here as a whole.
Written by Amy Wang, Managing Director, Beijing Maxigen Health Consulting, China, and HTI Representative for China