When choosing to have your baby in a Hong Kong private hospital, a vaginal childbirth at standard room rates on Hong Kong Island can reach HK$70,000–$100,000 and an emergency C-section at private room rates can easily exceed HK$250,000 (these amounts include hospital + doctor fees). Because there are so many variables in childbirth, it is difficult to predict the total costs in advance.
In general, you cannot get pregnancy insurance if you are pregnant when you apply to purchase the plan. All private insurance plans impose a “maternity waiting period” during which you are unable to claim for maternity-related expenses.
We asked health insurance adviser Anna Leonardo to give us some tips on choosing maternity coverage.
I don’t have pregnancy coverage through work. Can I just buy pregnancy insurance?
Maternity coverage alone cannot be purchased separately. Maternity coverage is usually bundled or added to inpatient coverage, or inpatient and outpatient coverage.
I have pregnancy coverage through work, but it is capped at $20,000. Can I buy additional pregnancy coverage and still claim from my work insurance?
Yes you can. In Hong Kong, you can cumulate health insurance policies, as long as you don’t claim twice for the same amount, which is fraud. You can claim from your work policy for certain invoices and your individual policy for other claims to maximize reimbursements. Many women claim from their work plan for prenatal care and use their individual coverage for childbirth.
What should I know about pregnancy waiting periods? Can the waiting period be waived?
A maternity waiting period applies when purchasing your own health insurance or if your employer’s insurance policy imposes one. Waiting periods are most common for smaller companies. Large companies usually waive the waiting period.
Maternity waiting periods generally vary between 9 and 18 months, with 12 months being the market average.
During the pregnancy waiting period, you are unable to claim for maternity related expenses. If you become pregnant before the end of your waiting period, you will only be reimbursed for the pregnancy related medical expenses incurred after the end of the waiting period.
Waiting periods applied to individual policies (as opposed to work policies) cannot be waived. I would be very cautious of any product that waives the waiting period.
What are the usual limits to pregnancy insurance?
Maternity coverage limits vary tremendously, from as little as HK$16,000 under a local policy to HK$150,000 under a high-end, international plan. You should also verify the coverage in case of complications, like an emergency C-section. Some providers double the normal limit, while others reimburse 100% of all expenses – up to the overall annual limit of the plan.
Are there any advantages to purchasing medical insurance when already pregnant?
While it is generally too late to purchase maternity coverage if you are already pregnant, there are some hidden advantages to purchasing private health insurance when pregnant.
1 – Some plans will cover an already-pregnant policyholder who did not complete the maternity waiting period for “complications of pregnancy,” but only and if the complications are not preexisting. For example, a mother can be reimbursed 100% of the expenses related to an emergency C-section, up to the overall annual limit of her plan.
2 – Some insurance providers cover a child with “medical history disregard” if the mother was already pregnant when she purchased the plan or if she did not complete the waiting period. The mother can add the newborn to her policy without any underwriting and the newborn can be covered for any congenital disease. This is a key advantage compared to purchasing a separate child policy once the baby is born (i.e. stand-alone child policy) for which there is underwriting.