Tenzing pacific services

The Ultimate Guide to
Health Insurance
in Vietnam

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 good 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 40 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 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:

1. 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 market, 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:
  • Local focus
  • Regional Southeast Asia focus
  • International 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 understand and work 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:

Local Focus Regional FocusInternational
Vietnamese company with offices and claims processing in Vietnam, eligibility rules require you to live in Vietnam for the majority of the policy yearInternational company that may have an office in Vietnam, strong focus and presence across Southeast Asia, eligibility rules require you to live in Vietnam for the majority of the policy yearInternational company that probably doesn’t have an office in Vietnam, geared toward globally mobile expats, eligibility rules vary
$$$$$$
Bao Viet
PG/PJICO
PTI
PVI
UIC
VietinBank Insurance
And more
April
Henner
Liberty
Luma
Pacific Cross
Safe Meridian
And more
ACS
Allianz
April FR
AXA
Bupa
Cigna Global
Expacare
Healthcare International
IMG
IPH
PassportCard
Morgan Price
MSH
And more

Here are the pros and cons of each group:

Local Focus Regional FocusHighest Quality

Pros

  • Most budget friendly
  • Your health premium is relatively stable year-over-year if you don’t need to make any claims
  • If you have a major claim, some will not offer renewal or may increase your premiums up to 3x
  • Easy to sign up for
  • Excellent direct billing networks in Vietnam
  • Able to process claims using Vietnamese language medical reports

Pros

  • Offer the  best value when you consider all factors:  what you get, what you pay, safety and user experience
  • More options for coverage and treatments outside of Vietnam
  • Usually have pretty good, responsive customer service to resolve matters quickly
  • Some offer periodic payment schedules
  • Guaranteed renewals
  • Reasonable annual premium increases
  • Some can process claims using Vietnamese language medical reports
  • Some are portable, meaning you can keep the same policy if you move to another country

Pros

  • Very safe, long-term providers
  • More likely to consider covering some pre-existing medical conditions
  • Most are portable, meaning you can keep the same policy if you move to another country
  • Most offer periodic payment schedules
  • Guaranteed renewals
  • Reasonable annual premium increases

Cons

  • Very unlikely to cover pre-existing medical conditions
  • Coverage levels are generally low, including low overall annual limits and some limits on individual illnesses
  • Due to the low premiums, claims processing is often quite strict, especially in the first year and regarding pre-existing conditions
  • Typically have a 1-year waiting period before coverage certain illnesses such as cancer
  • No direct billing outside of Vietnam
  • Most require one annual payment of your premiums

Cons

  • Relatively strict about covering pre-existing medical  conditions
  • Annual premium increases vary year-to-year

Cons

  • More costly
  • The largest insurers can lose sight of individual customers and provide less than satisfactory customer service given the price would expect it to be
  • Vietnam market is not a priority
  • Annual premium increases vary year-to-year

 

Travel Health Insurance

International travel health insurance bridges the gap between basic travel insurance and real health insurance. Basic travel insurance from your credit card or bank might give you some limited medical coverage and lost baggage protection. Travel health insurance can give you more coverage – higher spending limits, larger geographic areas, more types of medical care, broader choices of doctors, etc. The benefits provided are usually 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 or longer maybe a good choice, providing access to basic health care to allow travelers to continue their trip or to return home.

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 that set up an entity in Vietnam to offer bundled life insurance, investments and critical illness insurance.  Health insurance is sometimes 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. 

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.

2. 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:

Budget-Friendly

These policies from local providers won’t break the bank, but they come with tradeoffs: more restrictions, lower limitations, more liability, etc. Some examples are:

  • Bao Viet
  • PTI
  • Pacific Cross

Best Value

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:

  • Henner
  • April
  • Luma

Highest Quality

Comprehensive coverage with large global insurance providers. 

  • Cigna

The following charts compare the premiums for similar policies across a range of ages for private health insurance in Vietnam

Inpatient only: 

Inpatient & Outpatient

Note: These charts reflect 2022 rates, some of which may have increased, but the relative costs remain accurate. Aetna policies are now managed by Allianz; APlus policies are now managed by April.

3. Key Features of Health Insurance in Vietnam

Coverage Area

All health insurance policies define a geographic coverage area. With a few exceptions, the health insurance policies offered in Vietnam provide four choices:

In addition to your regular coverage area, your health insurance policy will usually include some emergency coverage, which pays for accidents and illnesses that happen when you’re traveling on a temporary trip outside of your regular coverage area.

Benefits

The benefits you choose will have a significant effect on your health insurance premium. The two major factors are limitations on each benefit and the amount of your annual coverage for each.

Inpatient

Also called hospitalization, inpatient benefits are mandatory in that all policies include them. 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 the name, inpatient benefits usually include some outpatient coverage that is related to a hospital stay.

Outpatient

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 medical conditions. This is an optional benefit that you cannot choose without an inpatient plan.

Health checks

Provides a predetermined 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 annual health checks, which can also satisfy the requirement for your TRC.

Maternity

Following a waiting period, usually 10 or 12 months, maternity covers a woman for the routine costs of a pregnancy, usually including prenatal visits, delivery, and complications. Most maternity policies are offered as an add-on benefit with additional premiums. A few inpatient policies cover complications without requiring the maternity add-on.

Dental

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 usually available only after a waiting period, typically 9 or 10 months. 

Evacuation and Repatriation

Evacuation involves transportation in a life-threatening situation to the nearest facility where appropriate treatment is available. In Vietnam, that’s usually a hospital in Saigon or Hanoi, or sometimes Bangkok. Evacuation is an extremely expensive service and 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 also be to your residence country if you’re traveling outside of your residence country when the accident or illness occurs. Most providers don’t offer repatriation to your home country. If they do, you may have to pay extra or include your home country in your coverage area.

Pre-existing Conditions

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 your pre-existing conditions.  Typically, you’ll need to submit relevant medical reports and/or questionnaires, depending on the condition. 

Direct Billing

Want to make your health insurance experience in Vietnam more smooth and easy?  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; the most common problem is delays in getting confirmation between insurance providers and medical facilities.

Here are some other common issues:

  • Not every type of treatment is available for direct billing
  • Some providers are much 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

Premium Payment Methods and Installments

Depending on the provider, you may have different payment methods and installment options.  

If you don’t have 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 instead of an annual premium, and most charge an additional fee for the privilege.  In general, the local providers don’t offer installments, whereas the regional and international providers do.

4. 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? 

  • Policies from $50 to $500 USD monthly
  • Our services have no additional fees, no obligations, no pressure 
  • 40+ insurance partners means unbiased advice, lots of choices
  • 5-star customer service includes help with claims, finding doctors

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.

Your bank

Most banks offer some form of Bancassurance for their members. Bancassurance is a form of health insurance in which a bank makes a partnership with a 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 policy with higher-level coverage, this is not the option for you.

Your employer

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 schools) offer bare minimum policies just to promote the fact that they offer health insurance. If you have such coverage, 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, have a conversation with your employer. One suggestion in that scenario is to request an allowance instead of the employer policy and find more suitable coverage for yourself.

5. The Sign up process for Health Insurance

The Sign up process includes:

Applying

Underwriting

Acceptance

Invoice/payment

Digital Documents

Physical Policy Pack

You’ll need to submit an application form and a picture of 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 package. Some providers are moving away from printing physical cards if they have a phone app.

6. Hospitals and Clinics in Vietnam and the Cost of Treatment

The cost of medical treatment in Vietnam can vary wildly, depending 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 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 sometimes 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 local health insurance companies. The hospitals and clinics that cater to expats will have a combination of local and international insurers for direct billing. 

Here are the major hospitals & clinics where you can access the best healthcare in Vietnam.

High-EndMiddle TierLocally Priced
Raffles
Family Medical Practice
FV Hospital
Columbia Asia
Hanoi French
Vinmec
CarePlus
CMI
Victoria Clinic
American International Hospital
French Hospital
Hanh Phuc
Yersin
Cho Ray
Hoan My
University Hospital >
Hong Ngoc
Tam Duc
National Hospital

7. Conclusion

If you take away just one idea from reading this, we hope it’s that navigating the health insurance industry is really hard, especially overseas, 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.

Ask a question. Get a quote. Talk, chat, email – your choice

These articles are intended to give you enough information to make informed decisions, but health insurance is complicated. Whether you still have questions on this topic or feel ready to take the first steps toward getting a policy, our advisors can help.

contact us

Questions? Want a quote or consultation?

We will never sell or use your personal information for any reason other than to provide these services.

We value your privacy. See how we use data and control your options Privacy policy

Open Hours:

Mon – Fri: 8.30 am – 6 pm, Saturday – Sunday: CLOSED

Johannes Heikkila

Advisor
From Finland
Expat for 1 year
Speak Finnish, English & Spanish

Speciality:
- Health Insurance
- Savings Plans

Robert Cunningham

Advisor
From the UK
Expat for 13 years in Thailand & Vietnam
5 years' insurance & financial services

Speciality:
- Health Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Savings Plans

Romain Camillo

Senior Advisor
11 Years in Insurance & Financial Services
Expat in thailand for 7 years
Joined Tenzing in 2020
Speaks French & English


Speciality:
- Health Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Savings Plans"

Nancy Dao

Advisor
From Vietnam
International Business from UK
Lived in Singapore
Speaks Vietnamese & English

Speciality:
- Personal Health Insurance
- Group Health Insurance

Hunter Deems

Advisor
10 years' experience in insurance and investments
Joined Tenzing in early 2020

Speciality:
- Investments
- Savings Plan
- Health & Life Insurance
Patrik Shore Tenzing Pacific Services

Patrik Shore

Senior Advisor
From Sweden & New Zealand
7 years' insurance experience
Joined Tenzing in 2019
Crim Science
Speaks English and Swedish

Speciality:
- Savings Plans
- Health Insurance
- Life Insurance

Geoffrey Mann

Advisor
From the US
Employee benefits & insurance compliance background
Joined the Tenzing team in 2019
Law degree from the US

Speciality:
- Personal Health

Nhu Nguyen

Senior Advisor
From Vietnam
Joined Tenzing in 2017
Fluent in Vietnamese & English

Speciality:
- Group Health & Life Insurance
- Personal Health"
Tenzing's advisor

Ian Comandao

Health Insurance Manager
From Philippines
MBA from Duke University
Expat for 20 years in US, China, Hong Kong & Vietnam Worked at Tenzing since 2018
Fluent in English, Tagalog, Mandarin

Speciality:
- Personal Health Insurance
- Group Health Insurance
- Business Insurance

Craig McAvinue

Director of Wealth Management
From the UK
25 years' expereince in investments & insurance
Expat in Thailand for 5 years
Chartered Accountant by trade
Holistic approach to consulting his clients

Speciality:
- Investments
- Savings Plans
- Health & Life Insurance

Quinn Miller

CEO & Managing Partner
From the US
Joined Tenzing in 2014
Expat for 10 years in Vietnam
Finance & Entrepreneurship Degrees

Speciality:
- Group Health Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Savings Plans"
  • 84 35857 2629
  • 84 35857 2629
  • quinn.miller@ten-pac.com

Quinn Miller

CEO & Managing Partner
From the US
Joined Tenzing in 2014
Expat for 10 years in Vietnam
Finance & Entrepreneurship Degrees

Speciality:
- Group Health Insurance
- Life Insurance
- Savings Plans"