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Medical Care For Foreigners In Vietnam

Vietnam certainly has a lot going for it. This beautiful Southeast Asian country borders China in the north, Cambodia in the southwest and has a long land border with Laos. From misty mountains, enchanting waterfalls and abundant rice fields in the north to stunning southern beaches this beautiful country is a scenic paradise.

But don’t think for one moment that Vietnam is simply a tourist destination. While it continues to attract increasing numbers of holidaymakers the expat community is also growing apace.

This is seen through the fact that many professional analysts see it as being the fastest-growing country of the 10 Member State ASEAN community. Vietnam’s industrial zones are spread across the country and come under 3 administrative regions; the Northern, Central and Southern regions.

Hanoi in the north is classed as being Vietnam’s cultural capital and is also the country’s designated capital city. But it is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) that is classed as its bustling business centre.

With a young and vibrant workforce it is little wonder that expatriate workers are keen to be part of this economic growth. Thanks to its appealing lifestyle, the country is also attracting increasing numbers of expatriate retirees.

Expats from both categories enjoy a very good standard of living, cost-effective accommodation and food to suit every palate. While all of this is very positive, medical care for foreigners in Vietnam is a crucial aspect that all expats residing there need to understand.

Whether you are a single person, have family members with you, are working or retired, one thing is very clear; first-class expat health insurance cover is an absolute must.

With that in mind, let’s take a good look at what the country has to offer in terms of:

  • Medical care and the country’s health system.
  • What the best international health insurance schemes and policies have to offer.
  • Take a look at the varying levels and cost of medical care for foreigners in Vietnam.

Medical Care and Health System in Vietnam

The Vietnamese government has made it clear that strengthening the country’s healthcare system is a priority. Their intention is to implement UHC (Universal Health Coverage) for all citizens.

The introduction of UHC means that eligible citizens will have access to all of the health services they require. This would be when and where they need them and be available without financial hardship.

Full implementation of UHC would include a full range of essential health services. This is from health promotion through to prevention and also includes treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

There have been some impressive strides made in the country’s healthcare system over the last decade. An example of this comes from the fact that in the past, patients would need to leave the country if complex medical care was required. Today that has all but been eliminated.

With that being said, the Vietnamese health authorities and the country’s citizens are still aware that significant room for improvement is needed. This is particularly the case in rural areas.

Why do expats in Vietnam need international health cover?

The current status of public and private hospital care in Vietnam will be explained shortly. But first there are two very important factors for expats to understand:

  • Expatriates are not eligible for any free treatment under Vietnam’s UHC program.
  • Any expat moving from the EU or Britain to Vietnam cannot use their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) or their GHIC (UK Global Health Insurance Card) to seek treatment while in Vietnam.

The above factors make it essential that all expats intending to live in Vietnam should take out international health insurance to cover their needs. Completing the fast and easy Expat by Expat Comparator form above (or insert link?) will help expats understand exactly what is available.

A mixed public-private healthcare system

Vietnam has a fast-improving healthcare system that places an emphasis on prevention rather than cure. This is currently classed as a mixed public-private healthcare system.

As would be expected, this healthcare model is far more advanced in metropolitan urban centres although it is slowly extending out to more rural areas.

Stark differences between public and private care

Vietnam’s public healthcare system and facilities are still basic at best.. With very few exceptions public hospitals and clinics suffer from lack of space. They tend to be chronically underfunded, medical equipment is outdated, and staffing is in short supply.

Due to overcrowding, patients can expect very little in the way of privacy or comfort. An example here is that it is not seen as unusual for patients (particularly pediatric patients) to share a bed!

These conditions do not lend themselves to the type of healthcare that expatriates need and expect. With that in mind, medical care for foreigners in Vietnam comes in the form of private hospital treatment.

By opting for care in one of the country’s private hospitals, expats will be treated by multilingual staff with French and English commonly spoken by doctors and nurses.

Although not quite the same level of luxury that is characterized by private healthcare facilities in more developed countries, expatriates will find Vietnam’s private hospitals more than acceptable. They are modern, clean and comfortable. Patients should also expect a pleasant environment and an acceptable amount of privacy during any treatment stay.

The Best International Health Insurance in Vietnam

It is clear that whether you are a single expat or have a family living with you in Vietnam, a major priority needs to be securing the best international health insurance policy. Such cover should be renewed on an annual basis and maintained during your full residency period.

Expats in Vietnam will typically choose to visit the efficient private hospitals in either Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). The reasons for this come through the already mentioned facts that the facilities are clean and modern and that the hospital staff of specialists, doctors and nurses tend to speak and understand English and French.

Taking out private medical insurance equates to peace of mind and is strongly recommended wherever you choose to live in the country. This is particularly important for those expatriates who reside outside of Vietnam's urban centers.

It should be noted that the vast majority of any treatments and procedures you may need can be carried out at these private hospitals. However, many expats already living in the country also take a belt and braces approach to health care.

This is through the addition of medical evacuation cover that is added to their chosen expat health insurance policy.

The reason for stating this is that in certain specialist treatment cases you will be better served by travelling to Bangkok, Singapore or Seoul. Having medical evacuation cover included in your chosen expat health insurance plan will cover such costs should that be deemed necessary.

When it comes to securing the best international health insurance in Vietnam, Expat by Expat are ready and fully capable of assisting. By partnering with us you can be assured of a personal service that is second-to-none.

Securing cover that meets your individual needs

It is very clear that your individual health cover needs are just that, individual!

The highly experienced Expat by Expat team fully understands that there is no “one expat health policy that fits all”. Once we understand your specific needs we will present you with a choice of health insurance policies that are right for you.

The very positive news relating to medical care for foreigners in Vietnam is that there are some excellent international health insurance schemes available for expatriates. These policies come from very respected international health insurance providers.

They are companies with a long history of offering a good variety of comprehensive yet flexible schemes. In terms of flexibility, this is seen through the fact that there are company schemes as well as different individual and family policies available.

By using the highly experienced services of Expat by Expat as your international health insurance broker in Vietnam you will be presented with policy options that best meet your requirements.

Cost of Medical Care for foreigners in Vietnam

It is important for expats living in Vietnam to understand the types and cost of medical care for foreigners in Vietnam. With this in mind, here’s a breakdown of what is available:

Pharmacies and medicines

As with other Southeast Asian countries, pharmacies are plentiful. This is particularly the case in large cities and they can easily be found in shopping malls as well as main shopping areas. A wide variety of medicines are also available. When purchasing OTC (Over the Counter) medicines just double-check they are not out of date or counterfeit.

If you have any doubts whatsoever then use the pharmacies located in the private clinics and hospitals. While this may cost a little more you will be sure of getting exactly what you require.

Are expats eligible for public health insurance?

The answer to this is a firm ‘No’. Expats are not eligible for any form of public health insurance in Vietnam. However, this does not stop them from using public hospitals or clinics should the need arise. If doing so you will pay the regular, non-subsidized rate.

What healthcare options are there for expats and foreigners? 

As just mentioned, expats can use public hospitals and clinics if they wish. When doing so they will be required to pay before they are seen by a doctor. Those expats with international health insurance cover can then submit receipts to their insurance provider for reimbursement. 

It is also the case that some private hospitals will require advanced payment. This is because not all of these establishments provide direct billing facilities to insurance companies. When taking out an expat health insurance policy this is something you should discuss with your broker.

By doing so, your provider will be able to work with you to sort out the logistics of any necessary visit(s). They will also clarify what options are available depending upon which part of the country you are in and the private hospital or clinic used.

A small price to pay for peace of mind coverage

It is true that the public health clinics and hospitals in Vietnam are steadily improving. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of matching the conditions and services that expats have come to expect. To receive any consultations or treatments you deserve the best. This means having access to private health establishments on an as-needed basis.

Taking out one of the best available international health insurance schemes while you are in Vietnam will give you exactly that. These tried and trusted policies are available for companies, individuals and families and the annual cost of such cover is surely a small price to pay for peace of mind coverage.

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