5 Health Insurance Tips for Men
1st November 2022
Did you know? Women are more likely than men to see a doctor – and also more likely to have private health insurance. A 2020/21 survey by the Hong Kong government’s census department found that 18.6% of women had seen a doctor in the 30 days before the survey was taken, compared with 15.1% of men.
The survey also found that 33.8% of men and 35.2% of women were covered by individually purchased health insurance. The gender disparity was even more pronounced during the reproductive years. For the 25-34 age group, 33.9% of men compared with 40.2% of women had private health insurance; for the 35-44 age group, those rates were 42.8% for men vs. 48.6% for women.
These findings are consistent with research conducted in the United Kingdom and the United States. But why do men appear to be less concerned about their health than women, even after you remove consultations for reproductive reasons as a factor?
It may have to do with ideas about masculinity. A 2019 survey by the Cleveland Clinic found that 65% of men try to “tough it out” and delay seeing a doctor for as long as possible, and 41% were told as children not to complain about health issues.
But, gentlemen, there is no shame in taking care of your health. And the best way to do that is with health insurance. Without further ado, here are Alea’s top 5 health insurance tips for men.
1. Health insurance covers screenings and treatments for prostate cancer and heart disease
In Hong Kong, some of the biggest threats to men’s health are cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease (e.g., stroke). But did you know that health insurance plans cover routine screenings, cancer screenings, and surgery and treatment for cancer and heart disease? (Provided that they aren’t pre-existing conditions.)
Prostate cancer was the third most common cancer among males in Hong Kong in 2019. Fortunately, screening and treatment for prostate and other types of cancer are covered by health insurance. Medical insurance plans have a Cancer Treatment or Oncology Benefit that covers – up to an annual maximum limit – chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, medicine and drugs, and diagnostic scans and tests.
Consultations with a cardiologist, neurosurgeon, or neurologist are also covered by insurance and reimbursed under Doctor Specialist fees. Surgical procedures such as angioplasty are covered under Inpatient Benefits, and rehabilitation, for example following a stroke, is usually covered under Outpatient Benefits. Just make sure to check the sub-limits; most high-end and expat medical plans will reimburse specialist consultations and surgical fees in full with no sub-limit, but for local plans, sub-limits may apply. It’s a good idea to check the policy’s terms and conditions to understand the extent of coverage.
2. Expat health insurers cover mental healthcare
In a 2018 survey by Cigna, 92% of respondents in Hong Kong said they were stressed; the main factors were work (39%) and finances (27%). Only 10% of the respondents said they had spoken with a medical service provider about their stress, with 45% agreeing that cost was their biggest obstacle to seeking professional help. Unfortunately, social stigma around talking about mental health remains – especially for men, which makes them less likely to talk about anxiety and depression. To make matters worse, men also face pressure from the gender stereotype that they should be the primary breadwinner in their family.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. As reported by Alea this year, many insurers – with international insurance companies leading the way – are extending their coverage beyond psychiatry to include psychological consultations and counseling. International health insurance plans, which are tailored for expats, provide comprehensive coverage for psychiatric and psychological care under Inpatient and Outpatient Benefits (with certain caps and sub-limits).
Local health insurance plans remain somewhat behind when it comes to covering mental healthcare, usually only covering psychiatric care.
3. A “top-up” insurance plan can protect your spouse and kids and give you coverage in more territories
If you have employee health benefits, a top-up plan can supplement your coverage if you find your employer-provided coverage lacking. For example, let’s say your work medical insurance doesn’t cover your wife and children. With a top-up plan, you can get coverage for your children and your kids.
What’s more, if you’re thinking about having a baby, you can add a Maternity Benefit to your top-up plan. Although childbirth in one of Hong Kong’s public hospitals is not expensive (for Hong Kong residents), many women still opt for the “shared care” or “half-half” route, seeking prenatal services from private healthcare providers and giving birth in a public hospital. That’s because the public system is busy, and you would be lucky to spend more than five minutes with the midwife or obstetrician at each visit. With a private doctor, on the other hand, you can spend much more time with your obstetrician, getting your questions answered and going over your birth plan with them in great detail.
Note, however, that maternity insurance usually has a waiting period during which you cannot claim insurance for any maternity-related treatment or services your spouse receives.
Another benefit of a top-up plan is you can get coverage in more areas of the world. For example, let’s say your employee health benefits only cover you in Asia, but you’d also like to have coverage in your country of origin because you travel back often to see family and friends. A top-up plan can expand your area of insurance coverage to include the places you visit most, so you’re protected no matter where you are in the world.
5. Off-piste skiing and mountaineering are probably not covered by health insurance
Although getting regular exercise is essential to staying healthy, take note: most health insurance plans do not cover high-risk activities and extreme sports. Your insurance policy will cover injuries related to recreational sports like soccer or running. But if you enjoy motosports, off-piste skiing, free-climbing, bungee jumping, scuba diving, and other dangerous activities, you might want to buy sports insurance, because your medical insurance plan won’t cover injuries or accidents related to these sports.
Sports-related injuries are usually only covered if you do not participate in a professional manner and if the sport is not considered hazardous. You’ll want to check the terms of your health insurance policy very carefully to see what sports are excluded, because insurance providers have their own ways of assessing the risks and dangers of different activities.
For example, some insurers won’t cover scuba diving at all, while others will cover scuba diving up to a depth of 30 meters and if you hold the appropriate PADI qualification or are accompanied by a PADI instructor. If reading over the policy terms still leaves you scratching your head over what sports are covered and what sports are not, you can always check with your insurance broker or advisor to get peace of mind.
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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.