The Ultimate Guide to
in Vietnam 2022
Table of Contents
Tenzing Pacific Services is an insurance and financial services agency headquartered in Vietnam. We put together this guide to help people understand how health insurance is marketed and managed here, based on 50+ years experience in the region. Unless you’ve been kicking around Southeast Asia for a while, you’re likely to find some surprising information here.
We believe that educated consumers are in the best position to benefit from our broad expertise and offerings. Tenzing works with more than 30 health insurance providers, both international and local, so we can provide the widest possible range of benefits and coverage options. We charge no fees for our services, which also include year-round customer support to find and book local health facilities, set up cashless billing, assist with claims issues and documents, help with premium payments, and more. You can talk to an expat advisor who lives here – they will give you a quote that compares policy features on an apples-to-apples basis, based on your situation and needs.
So, please read on. We hope this is useful. If you’d like to talk with an expert, just complete this form:
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Types of Health Insurance in Vietnam
Private Health Insurance
There are loads of insurers that offer full-service private health insurance in Vietnam. Every year, more international providers enter the country, usually through a partnership with a general insurer. Other providers shift their focus to include Southeast Asia, although they may not have physical offices here. The local providers concentrate their efforts on Vietnamese nationals, although their products are typically available to expats too.
We think of private insurers in these three general categories:
Regional Southeast Asia focus
What’s appropriate for you? The answer will depend on your budget, current circumstances, future plans, and more. No matter which provider you choose, there will be pros and cons to working through. Most people have to make at least one concession, such as a higher premium or lacking a benefit or key feature. The reality is that it’s rare to find a perfect policy fit.
Your options for residents of Vietnam include:
Here are the pros and cons of each group:
Travel insurance provides limited benefits for relatively short periods of time, but offers wide coverage areas. The benefits provided are much less robust than a health insurance policy — low annual benefits limits, lots of exclusions, no coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, mandatory deductibles, no direct billing. But for healthy people with a high risk tolerance, travel insurance for a vacation may be a good choice, providing access to basic health care to allow travelers to continue their trip or to return home.
Travel Insurance Providers for Vietnam
1. Safety Wing:
Digital travel health insurance that was designed for nomads and remote workers. It can also work as temporary travel insurance while you’re living abroad. It’s quite affordable, covers COVID and includes coverage for both inpatient and outpatient expenses.
2. World Nomads:
Old standard World Nomads is long established international travel insurance, based on your country of residence. Different benefits, terms and conditions and premiums will be available depending on where you’re from. World Nomads is especially good for the adventurous types who are participating in higher risk activities while they’re on their trip.
Life Insurance Coupled with Health Insurance
You can also get health insurance in Vietnam through a life insurance company. These are mostly international life insurance brands who set up an entity in Vietnam to offer bundled life insurance, investments and critical illness insurance. Health insurance is often available as an add-on product.
But you can’t buy a standalone health insurance plan from a life insurance company, so it’s not an option unless you’re looking for a suite of products. This is a popular choice for local Vietnamese citizens who are looking for a packaged solution from one provider.
Life insurance companies in Vietnam include: AIA, Manulife, Generali, Chubb, Prudential, Daiichi, Sunwah, Ageas, MetLife, PVI Life, FWD.
Vietnamese Social Insurance
For those who are working (legally) in Vietnam with a work permit and TRC, you’ll get the mandatory social insurance provided by the government through your employer. This is not something you can opt-out of if you decide to take private health insurance in Vietnam.
Social insurance provides very basic coverage, usually at government hospitals. If you’re relying on this alone, be prepared to pay big out-of-pocket bills. to wait for services, and to have a Vietnamese friend with you to translate. If you want a new private room with English speaking doctors and low out-of-pocket costs, then you should get a regular health insurance plan.
Vietnam Pass health insurance is a new government mandate as of 2022, which requires travelers to Vietnam:
- To have at least $10,000 USD worth of coverage and
- A policy which covers COVID.
Vietnam Pass can be used to enter Vietnam and it at least provides a base-level of coverage. It’s far from comprehensive in the benefit offering or user perks, but it’s enough to get the job done to enter Vietnam legal
Cost of Health Insurance in Vietnam
The cost of health insurance in Vietnam, which is known as the premium, depends on a number of factors, such as:
- Your age
- Provider and its underwriting style, terms and conditions
- The benefits you select and the limitations of each benefit
- The coverage area
When it comes to cost, health insurance providers can be broken into three categories:
Plans that won’t break the bank, but with that they come with tradeoffs; more restrictions, lower limitations, more liability, etc. Some examples are:
- Bao Viet
- Pacific Cross
For your money, these insurers can offer an excellent product when you consider all factors: what you get, what you pay, safety, user friendliness and key features. Examples:
Comprehensive coverage with large global insurance providers.
The following charts compare the premiums for similar policies across a range of ages for private health insurance in Vietnam.
(Click “Replay” to play the chart)
Inpatient & Outpatient:
(Click “Replay” to play the chart)
The following charts compare the average premiums from 3 groups of providers for private health insurance in Vietnam.
Average Premiums – Inpatient only:
(Click “Replay” to play the chart)
Average Premiums – Inpatient & Outpatient:
(Click “Replay” to play the chart)
Key Features of Health Insurance in Vietnam
With a few exceptions, the health insurance policies in Vietnam offer four choices of coverage area:
In addition to your regular coverage area, your health insurance policy will usually include emergency coverage, which provides coverage for accidents and illnesses that happen when you’re traveling on a temporary trip outside of your regular coverage area.
Your health insurance benefits will have a significant effect on your health insurance premium. Not only which benefits you take, but also the limitations of your benefits and the total annual limit of your policy. Benefits include:
Also known as hospitalization, inpatient benefits are mandatory benefits. They cover treatment which typically requires you to be admitted to a hospital, usually overnight in a bed. This is for more severe illnesses, injuries and diseases. Despite its name, inpatient benefits usually include some outpatient coverage that is related to a hospital stay.
As the name implies, outpatient covers you for minor injuries, illnesses and treatments done at a clinic or hospital where you get the treatment and then go home, rather than staying in a bed. This for your more routine and minor types of visits. This is an optional benefit that you cannot choose without an inpatient plan.
Provides a pre-determined amount of coverage for check-ups, tests, etc. that are not related to a current symptom. Most hospitals and clinics in Vietnam will offer a range of men’s or women’s annual health checks, which can also satisfy the requirement for your TRC.
Following a waiting period, usually 10 or 12 months, maternity covers a woman for the routine costs of a pregnancy, usually including pre-natal visits, delivery, and complications. Most maternity policies are offered as an add-on benefit with additional premiums. A few inpatient policies cover complications without needing the maternity add-on.
Another add-on benefit, dental typically covers both minor and major dental benefits. Minor dental can be used right away and is for checkups, cleaning, polishing, scraping, sealants and some other less significant treatments.
Major dental covers surgeries and sometimes orthodontia and is available only after a waiting period, typically 9 or 10 months.
Evacuation and Repatriation
The evacuation includes medical transportation in a life-threatening situation to the nearest facility where appropriate treatment is available. In Vietnam, that’s usually Bangkok. Evacuation is an extremely expensive service, health insurance providers know this, so it’s not easy to qualify for.
Repatriation generally involves returning you to your home country for treatment, but it can be to your residence country if you’re traveling outside of your residence country when the accident or illness occurs. Not every provider will offer repatriation to your home county. If they do, you may have to pay extra or at minimum, make sure your home country is in your coverage area.
Private health insurance in Vietnam is a for-profit business. Providing coverage for existing expensive medical conditions (pre-X) would seriously lower profits, so insurers are very careful about taking on this risk.
Nevertheless, some insurers will cover some pre-X. You’ll need to declare them during the application process and wait for a decision. Depending on the provider, the condition, how serious it is, the cost of related treatments, etc., the provider will take one of the following actions:
- Accept the pre-X at normal terms and conditions
- Accept it with an additional fee (“loading”)
- Exclude that condition and anything related to it from your coverage
- Reject the application if the pre-X is quite serious
Your health insurance broker can help you point towards the providers who are more likely to accept pre-existing conditions. Typically, you’ll need to submit relevant medical reports and/or questionnaires, depending on the condition.
Want to make your health insurance experience in Vietnam more smooth? Get a policy that offers cashless direct billing services. This allows you to show your insurance card at the hospital and clinic and then not have to go through the normal pay and claim process.
Direct billing in Vietnam is not a perfect system; it’s still a work in progress between the providers and the medical facilities.
Here are some common issues:
- Not every type of treatment is available for direct billing
- Some providers are way better at direct billing than others
- A hospital may make you leave a credit card on file with them even if you’re using direct billing
- Make sure your preferred hospital or clinic is in the direct billing network of your provider prior to taking a policy out
- Some providers may not offer direct billing for outpatient services
Payment Methods and Installments
Depending on the provider, you may have different payment methods and installment options.
If you have any payment restrictions, such as not having access to either an international credit card or a local bank account, then your choice of providers might be somewhat limited. Most providers offer some combination of the following payment methods:
- Local bank transfer to a Vietnamese bank account
- Offshore bank transfer to offshore account
- Credit or debit card
- Online payment link
Many insurers provide periodic payment options and most charge an additional fee for the privilege. In general, the local providers don’t offer installments, while the regional and international providers do.
In general, health insurance providers treat COVID like any other illness: subject to the policy terms and conditions, they’ll cover it. So, unless COVID is a pre-existing medical condition, your hospitalization will be covered, and your outpatient visit will be covered if you have outpatient coverage, up to the policy limits.
A small percentage of local providers have excluded COVID.
You can request a COVID coverage certificate should you require one for traveling purposes.
Where to buy Health Insurance in Vietnam
An insurance broker
We will always recommend using Tenzing Services as your trusted source for all things health insurance in Vietnam, but if it’s not us, then we still recommend using a broker or agent. Why?
- It’s free, the same price as buying directly from an insurer
- Get transparent advice and feedback on a wide range of providers, not just one
- Save time, hassle, and headaches
- Have someone on your side for claims, direct billing issues, etc
An insurance provider directly
You can buy directly from an insurer. Most providers have a sales force available to answer your questions and sell you a policy. Of course, they know only their own products — they can’t answer questions about other providers’ policies. So, trying to shop around on your own is tricky because policies are structured differently across providers, with different terminology. Unless you’re quite experienced with health insurance, it’s usually better to use a broker or agent.
Most banks offer some form of Bancassurance for members of the bank. Bancassurance is a form of health insurance, in which a bank makes a partnership with a local health insurance company. In Vietnam, these policies provide local health insurance, which is fine if you’re looking for basic and cheap health insurance. If you’re looking for benefit rich and higher level coverage, this is not the best option for you.
You may also get your health insurance in Vietnam through your employer. The employee benefits industry is still in its infancy stage and developing, so there is a pretty wide spectrum of what’s offered.
In our experience, many companies (including the schools) offer bare minimum policies just to promote the fact that they offer health insurance. Our strong recommendation is to carefully review a copy of your benefits table, so you understand what’s covered (and not).
If the coverage provided isn’t satisfactory, it’s better to have a conversation with your employer sooner rather than later. One suggestion in that scenario is to request an allowance instead of the employer policy and for then just choose what you want.
The Sign up process for Health Insurance
The Sign up process includes:
You’ll need to submit an application form and your passport. The form will usually require some fairly detailed medical information.
If there are no pre-existing conditions to consider, most providers will take between 1-4 days to accept your application.
If you have pre-existing conditions, the insurer will assess how risky you are to insure and make you an offer (accept the condition as is or with loading, exclude it, or deny your application). This process may take a week or more.
After acceptance, you’ll be given instructions on making payment.
After you pay, you’ll get a digital certificate of insurance and a policy pack. Some providers are moving away from printing physical cards if they have a phone app. If you require a card, that usually takes 3-5 business days after payment.
Hospitals and Clinics in Vietnam and the Cost of Treatment
The cost of medical treatment in Vietnam will depend largely on which hospital or clinic you choose and whether you use direct billing.
There’s a vast range of prices charged for the same services. It would not be uncommon to spend $2,000-$5,000 USD for relatively minor surgery in a nice private hospital with English speaking doctors. That exact same surgery may be available for half the price in a local hospital, in a ward room where you (or a friend) would speak in Vietnamese with staff and doctors.
Like many countries in Southeast Asia, most hospitals in Vietnam use a multi-tiered pricing system that charges different prices based on whether you’re paying out-of-pocket or using insurance. Broadly speaking, you’ll be charged more if you’re using insurance because the hospital will often be forced to wait months before being paid by the insurance company. If you use direct billing but part of a hospital stay isn’t covered, you may be charged the insurance price rather than the lower cash price. The prices can even depend on which insurer you have.
Not every medical facility will have direct billing set up with every insurer. Local hospitals tend to focus on Vietnamese health insurance companies. The hospitals and clinics that cater to expats will have a blend between local and international insurers for direct billing.
Here are the major hospitals & clinics where you can access the best healthcare in Vietnam. Broken down the list by price range:
To understand a better idea of the costs for certain types of treatments and different hospitals and clinics, you can reference Docosan.
If you take away just one idea from reading this, we hope it’s that navigating the health insurance industry is really hard, and that you might be better off asking for a little help from an expert. Whether you turn to us at Tenzing Pacific, or to another trusted source, we hope you make the time to choose a policy that fits.