Health Insurance in Vietnam: An Expert’s Perspective

Health - Saigon/HCMC: Oct. 31, 2016

Gary hails from Nova Scotia, Canada and spent 27 years with Manulife before moving to Vietnam 14 years ago.

He has been in the health insurance business here with Pacific Cross for 12 years. He wanted to bring international standards of healthcare to Vietnamese people and with about 80% Vietnamese to only 20% expatriate clients, he is achieving his goals. We sat down in Pacific Cross’ District 1 headquarters to discuss the ins and outs of health insurance. I was instantly struck by his professionalism and dedication to the people of Vietnam, whom he holds in high regard.

What is your opinion of Vietnamese health insurance providers? Are they reliable only for locals, or expats as well?

I think they are all fine. The insurance companies offer proper products and are providing a service to local people. But of course you get what you pay for, if someone is on a limited budget they are likely only getting a limited service.

Are there specific types of medical problems that health insurance in Vietnam has difficulty covering?

No, the service has come a long way. I have been here a long time and have seen lots of changes for the better. The companies understand the needs of their clients and cover all eventualities.

What rights do people have in Vietnam in regards to health insurance? What are the procedures in making a claim against a decision they think unfair?

They have all the same rights as international clients abroad. In the event of a disagreement, they would go to the insurance company first. If they are unsatisfied they can then go to the Ministry of Finance and then the Association of Vietnamese Insurers. Then there is the Vietnamese Arbitration Board and finally if all else fails, the courts. Of course, you have to have patience, things take time here, but if they work it through they will get a fair hearing. Sometimes people think they have a grievance when in reality they don’t; this gives rise to stories of unfair treatment.

Is health insurance taken through one’s employer the most affordable and safest option?

Employers’ policies are normally more affordable, but of course they, and not the end user, are in charge of things. Individual policies don’t get the same discounts but you can tailor your policy to truly suit your lifestyle and of course, it’s portable.

What are the difficulties faced by international travellers with health insurance from their home country if something happens to them in Vietnam?

International policies are written and managed under the rules of that country. If you come to Vietnam and have a claim you need to get all the information about your claim before you return home. Contact the hospital and any local agencies and get everything. Customers will have to pay first and claim later. For large claims however, the hospital will call your insurance company to check the details of your cover.

What are the biggest obstacles in the way of better health insurance in Vietnam?

I don’t think there are any obstacles at all, but people have a misguided idea on the level of charges. People need to understand that insurance costs. They need to match the budget to their requirements. Age of course is a factor, the older you get the more the premiums go up. In my view insurance is for catastrophes, the big things in life. Why claim on an insurance policy for a small treatment, it will only affect future policies.

Is health insurance widely advertised in Vietnam?

Not really, it is getting more popular among employers, but there are not many streams of distribution here. There are not many agents out in the field.

What is the government’s stance with regard to health insurance?

The government wants everyone to be taking out insurance, they promote it and they want it regulated and are active in that sense. They want consistent administration of the medical policies.

How does the cost of health insurance for expats compare with the equivalent in Western countries?

People think it’s expensive but one year’s cover here costs about the same as one month’s equivalent cover in the United States. It could be even cheaper but certain medical facilities are known to hike the price if an insurance company is involved.

Header photo via Pixabay