Leaving or Losing Your Job? Are You Still Covered?
August 17, 2021
In Hong Kong, there is no obligation for employers to provide health insurance to their employees.
This being said, Hong Kong having the 2nd most expensive private healthcare system in the world after the U.S, competitive employers offer medical coverage to their employees. When work coverage isn't sufficient, it is also common for employees to get individual health insurance (called top-up), in addition to the one provided by the employer.
If you leave or lose your job, do you know what happens to your health insurance? Not being sufficiently covered can have difficult consequences in case of big medical bill, so it's best to know and plan ahead.
We have prepared a practical guide with your options explained, and expert tips to make sure you are well informed.
1. You resign or lose your job
If you change or lose your job, you usually automatically lose your health coverage. This is why many people get a top-up insurance early on, while they are employed.
This said, there is an exception on the market: it is called the "portability" of group medical insurance (also called "conversion guarantee"). This means that you can stay with the same insurer if you change employer, or leave and remain temporarily unemployed. In this case you will then pay for your own health insurance.
While this is rare, it is hugely attractive for employees, especially in case of pre-existing conditions, which are generally excluded by insurers. Indeed, if you are lucky to have portability and unfortunately have (or your spouse/kids) any health issues, you will not have to go through new underwriting with a new insurer. and thus risk total exclusion of your pre-existing conditions under a new plan.
Most of the time, the portability of a health insurance contract is subject to an additional premium and to different conditions such as:
- a certain seniority (1 or 2 years)
- a time limit to exercising this right (generally 1 month)
In the event that the portability of your medical benefits is not possible, you will need to take individual insurance to cover your health costs.
➜ EXPERT TIP: Avoid being penalized and get top-up health insurance while you are still employed and covered under your company’s group medical insurance in Hong Kong. If you are planning to leave your job,_ speak to an expert and see if and how you (and your family) can stay covered throughout this transition.
2. You are leaving Hong Kong and relocating elsewhere
If you move to another country but stay with the same company, make sure that your health insurance through work sufficiently covers health expenses in this new country. Differences in costs can be very large from one country to another.
In case you have individual health insurance at your own cost, it should be possible to keep it. If the coverage area in which your new country is located is lower than that of Hong Kong, the cost (i.e. your insurance premium) will be readjusted and will be lower. There will also be a new health questionnaire for you to complete.
It is possible to take travel insurance during the transition between your two countries of residence, but the limits of these insurances are generally low. Make sure you understand how travel insurance differs from health insurance, to avoid bad surprises.
3. You set up your own business / become an entrepreneur
If you are starting out as an entrepreneur and want to stay protected, you will have to get an individual health insurance plan. In this case, you will need to submit a new health questionnaire.
Very few insurance providers accept to start group plans as of 1 or 2 employees. In fact, the minimum to start a medical plan in Hong Kong varies between 3 to 5 employees.
➜ EXPERT TIP: When starting small, you can either get an individual plan per employee or look into options for micro-enterprises. We at Alea work with some insurance providers that can start group medical plans as of 1 or 2 employees only. Contact us to know more and read our Guide for Startups and SMEs.
4. If I start my business, how will the number of employees influence my options?
|3 to 6 employees||7 to 10 employees (most common)||More than 10 employees|
|Medical history disregard*||Possible but rare and expensive||Yes||Yes ➜ great margin of negotiation|
|Discount||Possible||Yes||Yes ➜ great margin of negotiation|
*Medical history disregard: This means that employees won’t be discriminated against based on their pre-existing conditions. Employees and dependents are fully covered regardless of their conditions/medical history.
Common practice: Under basic group plans in Hong Kong, rules around the coverage of pre-existing conditions are different, so contact us for professional advice.
Remember: in Hong Kong, health insurance plans are not standardized. There are hundreds of options and a wide range of prices. Make sure all your options are clearly explained to you by an independent specialist. Our team is here to help you find the health insurance that best suits your situation and needs.
An advisor will be in touch to answer all your questions!
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.