An expat guide to healthcare and health insurance in Vietnam
Are you researching an expat health insurance for Vietnam? It is important to find out about the local healthcare system first.
Whether you are moving to Vietnam or you are already living there as an expat, read our guide to the Vietnamese healthcare system, your different options of medical insurance for Vietnam and an overview of the average cost of local healthcare.
- Total population (2017): 95.54 million
- Gross national income per capita (PPP international $, 2017): 6,450
- Life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2016): 72/81
- Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population, 2016): 182/66
- Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2014): 390
- Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2014): 7.1
Healthcare in Vietnam for expats
Vietnam’s economic development over the past decade has been accompanied by an improvement in public health, and government expenditure going into the Vietnamese health service is increasing. Moreover, Vietnam has recently implemented a reform to provide universal healthcare coverage to the entire population. There are two types of health cover in Vietnam, managed by the Vietnam Social Security (VSS):
- Compulsory social security cover: it applies to all workers on permanent contracts of more than three months. It is also applies to several other categories, with the aim of making it universal (children, poor people, students, those over 90 years of age, war veterans…)
- Voluntary health insurance: this applies to people who are not covered by the mandatory scheme: the self-employed and informal workers.
Expatriates must contribute to the compulsory health insurance, but as will be explained in the following paragraph, this is often not enough and many expatriates choose to subscribe to a private medical insurance in Vietnam.
The quality of the Vietnamese healthcare system
Despite numerous efforts to provide healthcare cover to the entire population, the Vietnamese health system remains largely underfunded and suffers from structural inefficiencies.
The level of cover offered by the public system is low, and the rest of the costs left to those using the services remain high, even though the highest users are found among the poor. For example, public hospitals apply a fee for some complicated medical procedures.
The quality of care in public hospitals is still far from being up to the standards of western countries. Vietnam’s hospitals are overloaded. According to the French Embassy in Hanoi, it is not uncommon for hospitals to have an occupation rate of 200%, particularly those which are centrally located. Meanwhile, there is not enough medical equipment or medical staff to treat everyone. These structural problems seriously affect the general health services in hospitals.
Inequalities between urban and rural areas
It is also important to note that the quality and availability of medical services varies considerably between urban and rural areas. Public hospitals in the rural provinces are the most underfunded and underequipped. Many people living in the provinces therefore travel into major urban areas for their medical treatment, which serves to prolong the waiting lists in hospitals in big cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.
Because of these structural problems in the public sector, it is recommended to subscribe to a private health insurance in Vietnam. Private hospitals also offer services that better meet the expectations of the expatriate population. In general these hospitals have an international medical staff, who speak English. However, their charges are high, hence the importance of having adequate medical insurance in order to be treated in these facilities.
International health insurance for expats in Vietnam
It is advisable for expatriates in Vietnam to take out international health insurance allowing them to be covered outside of Vietnam and in their countries of origin. Indeed, many expats and prosperous Vietnamese prefer to travel to Bangkok or Singapore for some specialised treatments.
Also, if after Vietnam you settle in another country, your expatriate health insurance may be able follow you.
It is always important that your international health insurance is in line with local legislation. If you are employed in Vietnam (with a contract of three months or more) taking out international health insurance for Vietnam does not exempt you from being affiliated to the local system: in this case, your international health insurance will be an additional health cover.
What is the best health insurance for expats in Vietnam
The best health insurance in Vietnam for one expat might not be the best for you as everyone has different needs and criteria.
In order to find which one is the it is important to consider several aspects such as your medical history, your age, your specific needs in terms of medical cover, your situation in Vietnam, alongside other parameters.
How much does healthcare cost in Vietnam?
Consultation with a private GP: charges are generally between 900,000 and 1.6million VND (£27/35€ to £49/63€ *), depending on the doctor consulted. The charges in international clinics are higher. For example, in the SOS Clinic in Hanoi, consultation with a Vietnamese doctor costs 2,000,000 VND (£61/79€) and consultation with an expatriate doctor costs 2,200,000 VND (£68/87€).
Consultation with a private specialist: charges are typically between 1million and 1.7million VND (£30/39€ – £52/67€), according to the doctor consulted and their specialty. The charges in international clinics are higher. For example, in the SOS Clinic in Hanoi, consultation costs 2.9million VND (£85/114€).
Consultation with a private dentist: usually a routine consultation is free; otherwise the fare is around 10€. The placement of a dental crown varies between 800,000 and 7,000,000 VND (£24/31€ – £215/277€), depending on the type of crown and dental cabinet.
Hospital expenses at a private hospital: hospital costs vary considerably depending on the medical condition being treated and the chosen hospital. For an idea of costs, a 24 hour stay in the SOS International Hospital for an adult with gastroenteritis, who is not already registered at this hospital, will be around 20-24million VND (£616/791€ – £740/ 949€) .
*Exchange rate April 2016
What is the cost of private health insurance in Vietnam?
Such as with any type of health insurance, the price of medical insurance for expats in Vietnam varies greatly depending on the age, medical history, family composition of the applicant and other factors.
Access to English-speaking healthcare staff
The US Embassy in Vietnam has a list of hospitals with English-speaking staff.
It is recommended to be up-to-date on against diphtheria, tetanus and polio. Other vaccinations also recommended are: cholera, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis A and B, rabies and typhoid are recommended based on the terms of stay. A certification of yellow fever vaccination is required only for travellers coming from a country where there is a risk of transmission. More information on the NHS Fit-for-Travel website.
Malaria is present throughout the year in the whole country, excluding urban centres, the Red River Delta (Northern Delta) and central coastal plains. Please see the NHS Fit-for-Travel website for information on what precautions to take against malaria.
It is advisable not to drink tap water because it is rich in heavy metals (lead, mercury, cyanide etc). Tap water can be used for washing, brushing teeth, washing dishes and food. It is preferable to use bottle water for cooking food.
Police: 113 Fire brigade: 114 Ambulance: 115 Vietnam International Ambulance: (04) 574 11 11 Franco-Vietnamese Hospital: (08) 411 33 33 (Ho Chi Minh) Vietnam International Hospital: (04) 574 07 40
There are numerous pharmacies in city centres. Beware of fake medication.
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Visitors staying for more than 6 months in the UK must pay an ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’. Since Brexit, European citizens are also included.