Vietnam is one of the countries where we would like to stay in Asia. It is important to know that there are a significant number of tourists, expatriates and retirees in Vietnam. This is not surprising, of course, given that this destination has everything it takes to please. Not only is the cost of living lower, but expatriates and retirees lead a good life with their incomes. But if there is one thing you should not forget when you plan to settle in a new environment, it is that health problems can occur at any time, especially during the adaptation phase. It is not uncommon to meet tourists who travel several months without insurance or even expatriates who do volunteer work, internships or even work without any coverage. More importantly, some known insurances do not cover you if you have a motorcycle accident (even if you are a passenger!) which is inconceivable if you want to live several months in Vietnam.
In prevention, choosing a reliable insurance that covers you for the most frequent risks that happen to expatriates in Vietnam is a necessity. This means having an excellent mutual insurance or health insurance adapted to life in Vietnam. We are talking here about an insurance that would cover major accidents that you may face as an expatriate wishing to live several months to several years in Vietnam. Of course, for small sores, digestive problems if you are a street-food lover or even health check-ups (teeth, blood tests…), insurance is not useful since in general basic health care is very affordable for small budgets. We are not going to be alarmist, in general it is only a question of small injuries caused by the skins of escapes, like the famous “Saigon Kiss” very well known to foreigners and expatriates who stay several months in Asia.
So let’s see in this article where to get treatment in Vietnam, how to choose the best private insurance to avoid unpleasant surprises…
Some retirees even embark on the adoption of a health system that combines Eastern and Western medicine according to the health problems encountered, so you are free to experiment and do your own research. In this article, we will focus on health in Vietnam, the decisions you have to make as an expatriate and which are essential if you want to settle for several months in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or even other cities less frequented by expatriates.
Health system in Vietnam – what is the situation?
In Vietnam, the government is trying to establish a universal health system that would be applicable to all legal residents of the country for all basic medical care. However, as things stand at present, Vietnamese citizens and expatriates living in Vietnam are obliged to pay for medical services themselves, whether in public or private institutions.
People who have the necessary means naturally choose private institutions because these hospitals are better equipped and more efficient. This is a reason to have good medical insurance when you choose to reside in Vietnam.
How is it going at the level of public institutions?
Expatriates residing in Vietnam often comment on the quality of care in public institutions. It happens to be completely different from what you think you’re discovering. This is not surprising, of course, given that Vietnam’s public hospitals often do not have the necessary finances to have good equipment. Moreover, turning to this type of establishment is really painful for newly arrived expatriates as staff generally only speak Vietnamese. And as you might expect, the queues are extremely long! In the case of rural areas, the quality and availability of health care is significantly reduced. And in some of the country’s most remote regions, public health care is almost non-existent.
It is therefore quite normal to see expatriates turning directly to care in private institutions whenever possible. However, in some cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, the quality of care remains high and you will pay much less than if you go to a private clinic. Doctors who speak English can be enough if you want to have a consultation for an affordable price for a quality that often almost matches the quality of international hospitals. Here is the list of the best establishments in Ho Chi Minh:
- Benh Vien Cho Ray: probably the most famous hospital in Saigon with certified doctors, recent equipment and a wide range of specialists
- University Medical Center: a hospital in district 5, this is the hospital grafted to the Ho Chi Minh Medical University, so many locals trust it for care. Remember to arrive early in the morning (preferably before 6am to avoid the crowd)
Private health clinics : best solution for expat
Fortunately, the quality of care in Vietnam’s private hospitals is acceptable and more or less meets what expatriates expect from a hospital. Private hospitals in major Vietnamese cities have the advantage of having doctors and health professionals in their staff who have studied in foreign countries such as the United States, Korea, Japan and France. This means that the latter are mostly bilingual or trilingual with a good understanding of English, French, Korean and even sometimes Japanese.
In addition, most of the basic treatments that are given in Vietnam’s private health facilities are covered by the international health insurance policy. Since the services of specialized health professionals can be quite expensive, it is preferable for expatriates to claim their health insurance. Generally, it is the services of dentists and dermatologists that are most in demand. However, it should be noted that although the rates applied to expatriates are significantly higher than those applied to locals, the cost of care in Vietnam is still lower than in other Asian countries. To this end, it is essential that all expatriates in Vietnam invest in comprehensive international health insurance to cover the high costs associated with private health care.
Best private clinics in Ho Chi Minh tailored for expat
There is a wide choice on Ho Chi Minh if you are looking for a private quality establishment whose staff will be there to listen, quality consultations as well as modern equipment if you have scanners, radios or other specific requests:
- FV Hospital: a renowned French-Vietnamese hospital in District 7 often tops the rankings of the best hospitals in Saigon
- International Medical Centre (CMI): French-Vietnamese hospital, doctors speak French and its location in district 3 is advantageous if you do not wish to travel to district 7
- Victoria healthcare in Phu Nhuan, District 1 and District 7 have doctors trained in the United States, including
Best private hospitals in Hanoi
Both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh have many health clinics created with foreign investment. Doctors have generally been trained abroad, which guarantees that you can communicate in your native language (the French hospital in Hanoi has a very good reputation) and thus be reassured if you go there for delicate cases:
- Vinmec International General Hospital: Vinmec is very well known as the one present in Ho Chi Minh, it is a modern hospital with an infrastructure, doctors and know-how that is well proven.
- Hanoi French Hospital (HFH): French private clinic originally created by the French always has a very good press and many French expatriates go there for their current or emergency health care.
- Japanese International Eye Hospital (JIEH): Private hospital from Japanese investments is one of the best choices for you if you are looking for an international clinic with proven expertise
Subscribe to health insurance, a necessity
For an expatriate, the question does not even arise. It is only natural to take out an international health insurance policy before coming to Vietnam. Moreover, if possible, it would be more appropriate for an expatriate to check the health insurance coverage provided by an insurance company and ensure that it covers all hospital care. Mothers polish health insurance are of course the one who takes care of medical evacuations and repatriation in case it is necessary to provide care outside Vietnam. It is known that in extreme situations, patients are generally evacuated to Bangkok or Singapore, which have facilities that can provide the best treatment and emergency care.
What precautions should be taken to protect your health?
Despite strong health insurance, it is strongly recommended to take some precautionary measures. This generally includes not buying medicines only from pharmacies and establishments that are linked to private hospitals and clinics, as the existence of expired and counterfeit medicines should not be ruled out. Among the risk factors that should be addressed to minimize health problems in Vietnam is tap water, which is not drinkable and should therefore be avoided in all its forms.
Temperatures in Vietnam can skyrocket. Sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are major problems for newcomers to the country. It is recommended to wear a sunscreen that offers high protection against UV rays. Those considering settling in the Vietnamese countryside are also invited to take antimalarial treatment. All basic vaccinations must also be done before moving to Vietnam.
What insurance options are available for expat residents in Vietnam?
Expat (American, British, Australian, French, …) people who have chosen to reside in Vietnam must have good health insurance to fully enjoy their stay. A few solutions are then available to them in order to preserve their health during their stay in Vietnam.
Expat from a country with a general health insurance like French
For a French person who contributes to the CPAM, it is possible to keep all his rights to French health insurance offered by the social security system if he dares Vietnam for a short stay. Everyone, depending on their situation, whether they are a student, employee or pensioner, will be able to benefit from their right to French social security by sending the administrative formalities to the CPAM in France.
There is the CFE (Caisse des français de l’étranger) which is useful during expatriations for a fixed period. The coverage offered is certainly not complete, but it allows you to continue to contribute to French social security while abroad.
Dutch, German, Belgium … and other nationalities
If you also have in your home country a general health insurance (Netherlands, Germany, Belgium …), you can consider this option to see the package they provide and which cost would be to keep your hometown insurance.
Private insurance is an interesting option for those who want to reside in Vietnam while having the peace of mind of having full coverage in case of illness.
Health insurance options in Vietnam
Those who wish to have good health insurance in Vietnam have a wide choice. Insurance companies offer packages to protect individuals, couples, retirees and even families. Depending on individual preferences, it is important to choose the right insurance policy plan. For Vietnam, the French can classify their needs in three types of insurance.
Travel health insurance
This is the preferred option for people who visit Vietnam during holidays or for a short period of time. It is similar to traditional insurance packages, one of the cheapest insurance policies, easy to obtain and most often includes benefits such as protection against loss and theft of luggage and flight cancellation. This insurance covers minor health problems and people who subscribe to it usually do so as a preventive measure.
Local health insurance
This is an insurance policy offered by local companies. These offers are most often adapted to local situations. The expatriate will have the advantage of dealing with people who have a good knowledge of the health system in Vietnam. The package generally covers consultations, dental care, ophthalmological care and maternity. By adding additional costs, it is possible to add several options to the insurance. However, this type of insurance does not cover travel outside Vietnam.
International health insurance
Despite its higher price than other options, the international health insurance policy is the most appreciated by retirees based in Vietnam and expatriates who plan to stay there for several years. Designed for people who do not stay in France, this insurance policy offers global coverage, not to mention the fact that it is accepted by a wide range of private and semi-private hospitals as well as many health professionals around the world. Customizable according to the insurance company, this type of package is suitable for retirees based in Vietnam who want to keep the possibility to visit other countries during the holidays. The negative points to highlight with this type of session would of course be the high price compared to other available options and coverage that may seem excessive for people who feel they do not need certain options.
How to buy a health insurance in Vietnam?
In addition to the possibility of taking out an insurance policy once on site, it is also possible to make comparisons on the Internet in order to find an insurance company that offers international health insurance adapted to everyone’s needs. Generally, many expatriates opt for companies that handle all the administrative formalities in order to travel with peace of mind.
What should I consider when applying for an insurance policy?
Those who have knowledge of the insurance world can choose according to a few criteria instead of just the folds that are offered.
- Level of service: it is advisable to know the limits of an offer to ensure that you can quickly access care when you need it.
- Freedom of treatment: it happens that some formulas are only dedicated to the Vietnamese market and do not allow to be evacuated to another Southeast Asian country or another foreign country.
- Contract renewal conditions: this applies to those who have a thorough knowledge of how insurance companies work. The fact that some companies calculate the course based on the personal use of the insurance policy and others calculate based on their portfolio can make all the difference in costs.
- Direct billing: Knowing whether or not an insurance company has a large direct billing network can be a great help in making a choice.
- Portability: Knowing the portability of an insurance company can be useful for those who like to move outside Vietnam from time to time.
- Payment terms: Depending on the means available, the fact that an insurance company only offers annual enrolment forms or accepts only a limited number of payment terms may become a problem.
- VAT invoicing
- The use of two-wheeled vehicles: since this practice involves risks, the insurance company may have additional requirements compared to the use of two-wheeled vehicles.
- Sports practice: The practice of a sport, whether extreme sports or practice at a professional level, can change the nature of the adapted insurance.
Thus, many parameters must be taken into account if you want to be sure you have the right insurance policy to guarantee your health during your stay in Vietnam. And it is for this reason that it is advisable to be assisted by a professional or an advisor when choosing your insurance plan.