How does the state health insurance system work?

Vietnam has been steadily progressing towards universal health coverage and has been making strides towards achieving this goal, with 87.7% of Vietnam’s population – or 83.6 million people – now covered by national health insurance. The country may thus be said to operate on a two-tier system of both public and private health insurance coverage. As an expat, it is unlikely that you will be able to access the public health insurance scheme.

The Ministry of Health has taken a strategic approach to universal coverage, which has been improving the standard and provision of healthcare in Vietnam for some years, particularly in rural areas.

Healthcare provision, however, does not yet adhere to the standards of Western care. Some hospitals have a good reputation, including Benh Vien Cho Ray in Ho Chi Minh city and University Medical Center, which is part of the Ho Chi Minh Medical University. But many expats report significant deficiencies in public healthcare.

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Who is eligible for state healthcare?

Although the principle of universal coverage has been growing, it is unlikely that you will be able to access the national insurance scheme. You can still access public healthcare, but you will need to make out of pocket payments.

Access to public healthcare may also depend on your nationality: due to historical ties between Vietnam and France, if you are a French national, you may be able to rely on your national health insurance coverage under CPAM. If you are from elsewhere, then you will need private cover.


How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?

Although you will not be eligible to join the state health insurance system, your employer may either sign you up with a private policy as part of your employment package, or may give you the money to arrange your own health insurance provision.


What is covered by the state health insurance system?

Universal coverage in Vietnam applies to both primary and hospital care. As noted, it has been developing in recent years and the standard of provision has gradually been improving, but is not yet up to the levels of Western treatment.


Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?

You will not be covered by state medical insurance and will need to take out private cover. Check that your policy does not have an age limit. You may also wish to consider taking out a policy which covers medical evacuation, in case you prefer to receive treatment in your home nation. You may wish, for example, to take out insurance with an international provider that has a local partner. You may still need to make an initial payment of between US$2,000 to US$10,000, however. Check your policy with care.


Are students covered by state medical insurance?

As an international student you will not be covered by the national scheme and will need to take out private cover.


Will your family be covered by your insurance?

You will need to take out private cover which also insures your dependents.


Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?

You will not be able to access dental treatment under a state plan and will need to either pay out of pocket or take out a dental plan. Dental costs are relatively cheap, particularly in relation to charges in the USA. A check up is likely to cost around US$10, cleaning and polishing costs in the region of US$15-25, and fillings will be around US$20 – 50.


What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?

Although you cannot access state health insurance, if you are an employee you will still need to pay social security contributions on a monthly payroll deduction. At present this is around 8% of your salary.


Why buy private health insurance?

Public health insurance will not be available to you as an expat, so it is important to take out private cover. Vietnam has a number of local providers, but there are some restrictions on these.

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What is covered by private health insurance?

Private health insurance should cover primary and secondary care, in addition to dental and maternity cover, and elective surgical treatment such as laser eye surgery.

Check that your policy has a realistic level of cover. Some local companies only cover treatment up to US$10K and their policies are designed to help local citizens who can only afford limited premiums. One of the Thai insurance companies, Luma, covers Vietnam (it has a direct billing agreement with Vietnamese hospitals and is partnered with local provider Bao Long), and offers coverage up to US$1 million. Expats resident in Vietnam suggest taking out a policy with a minimum rate of cover of USD$500,000.

Expats also report that Vinmec, the private hospital group, is not of a high standard and it may be advisable to seek treatment in your home nation or elsewhere in SE Asia for any serious conditions. Again, it might be worth considering a medical evacuation policy.


How much does private health insurance cost?

The cost of your insurance will depend on a number of factors, including your age and any pre-existing conditions, and also on whether you choose to take out local or international health insurance.

Luma offer a range of Asia Plus plans, shown below. Premiums are for a 39-year-old male.

  • Plan 1: Full coverage for IPD and cancer for US$827 per year.
  • Plan 2: All benefits from plan 1 along with OPD (outpatient) coverage, including vaccinations at a limit of US$6,000, for US$1,603 per year.
  • Plan 3: All benefits from plan 2 with additional coverage for dental treatment, maternity, and vision, for US$2,345 per year.
  • Plan 4: All benefits from plan 3 with a significant increase in annual limits, dental treatment, and maternity coverage, for US$3,090 per year.
  • Plan 5: All benefits with unlimited OPD coverage, for US$4,523 per year.


Which companies offer private health insurance?

Both international and local insurers provide cover for Vietnam, including:

  • Allianz
  • Cigna
  • Luma (based in Thailand)
  • Pacific Prime


Glossary of health insurance terms

You may find that English-speaking medical personnel are uncommon in the public sector in Vietnamese hospitals, particularly outside the big cities. Some expats recommend taking a Vietnamese speaker along with you to medical consultations. In the private sector, many medical personnel have studied abroad and thus may be multilingual.


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