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Traditional Chinese Medicine and International Health Insurance

Traditional Chinese Medicine and International Health Insurance

The art of Traditional Chinese Medicine probably dates back some 5,000 years ago. Due to its value and pertinence, it is still widely practiced till today. Its methods are unique and are gaining acceptance among the expat communities in China.

While there are many differences compared to Western medicine, one of the biggest disparities is that TCM focuses on the whole body. Diagnosis usually starts with an analysis of the entire body and then adjustments are made to correct the pathological state as so to enable the “Qi” to flow better. “Qi” is referred to as the body energy. Treatment generally includes bone setting (similar to chiropractic), tui na massage, acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal medicine.

TCM and modern medicine

According to Dr. Eva Zhang of the Shanghai East International Clinic, “People seem more willing to try this ancient art than ever before, as they seek out more alternatives and options. As it gains more prominence around the world, foreigners staying in China naturally want to take advantage of being here where it is still practiced so widely.”

It is used to remedy a variety of problems - from the common cold to weight loss, high blood pressure to cigarette addiction. Dr. Lawrence Huang, the owner of Tranquility Medical Center in Shanghai, says that he has seen at least a 20 percent increase in the number of European and American patients who are coming to his center. The most common reasons are for weight loss or body pain. He says that the first step when starting treatment is to make sure that the body is in good condition. He says his methods - like bone setting, acupuncture and herbal remedies - help to not only cure the patient’s problems but also improve their overall health and well being.

Today, there is a trend towards alternative medicine to help with illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. While Western medicine may provide faster relief, TCM can help cure or relieve problems in the long-term.

Jackie Dicon, a kindergarten teacher, had been battling with thyroid problems for many years, resulting in her having little energy. She decided to try TCM after a friend’s recommendation. After several treatments, she felt more energetic than she had ever had while taking her Western medication. Now a convert, Jackie applies TCM regularly for herself and her family.

“This method treats all of you, not just for a certain symptom or a single problem like with Western medicine,” she says.

Dr. Huang notes that the biggest issue for new patients is their lack of patience. Results are not obvious after just one or two visits. He says that the most important objective is to treat the whole body and find a long-term cure.

Cost of TCM in Shanghai

Prices vary between treatments at international hospitals and private clinics.

  Private clinic International Hospitals
Consultation cost 100 to 300 CNY 300 and 900 CNY

Taking TCM to the next step: Education

Not only are expats more open to using TCM as a treatment, there is a growing number who are learning and studying the practice. Dr. Eva Zhang has been conducting a TCM course at the Expat Learning Center in Shanghai since 2006. The class introduces the basics, focusing on diet and lifestyle changes that are easy for most to follow if they want a healthier and more enjoyable life.

Those who attend the course typically understand the advantages of TCM and want to learn how they can implement it into their daily lives. “The preventive side of TCM is definitely appealing to everyone who takes this course. Just as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Dr. Zhang.

Amena Schlaikjer, who has lived in China since 1991, uses it regularly to help with her health problems. To take her knowledge one step further, she attended Dr. Zhang’s course where she gained a better understanding of the body’s meridians, where they run through the body and which organ systems they affect. “A deeper understanding makes you delicately aware of your body, its flows and fluctuations,” she says.

Expat Health Insurance

Due to its growing popularity, more insurance companies are adding TCM into their list of benefits.

MSH China, one of the leading insurance providers in the market, increased their coverage of TCM procedures to better serve their customers. "A growing number of our clients are choosing TCM as part of their treatment or additional treatment for cancer, chronic disease and other diseases where there is no obvious solution from Western medicine," commented Vanessa Peng, Senior PR Executive, "this form of treatment can help improve patients' immunity system."

The table below illustrates TCM coverage provided by some insurers in China.

  MSH China Greater China Plus AXA Winterthur China Elite AXA-Minmetals InterGlobal Select
Complementary Treatment Up to ?4,000 for acupuncture and homeopathy and within the limit of out-patient treatment up to ?4,000 for acupuncture and homeopathy and within the limit of out-patient treatment Full cover within the limit of out-patient treatment; Max 10 visits per year for Physiotherapy & Chiropractic Treatment Cover up to a maximum sub-limit of ?8,925 for Complementary medicine and treatment, chinese medicine and physiotherapy and within the limit of out-patient treatment
TCM Full cover within the limit of out-patient treatment Full cover within the limit of out-patient treatment; Max 10 visits per year for Chinese Herbalist, Bonesetter, and Acupuncturist
Note: 1) Above example is based on male 33 years old

The Development of TCM

While people are paying more attention and giving more credence to TCM, it is still in the beginning stages of expanding beyond Asia. Through the release of books, education programs, investments in research and development, it is slowly earning its place among modern medicine.