Basic Guide to Health
Insurance in Vietnam
One thing we try to be at Tenzing is transparent with our clients, setting their expectations correctly from the start, so there are no negative surprises along the way. This is why we’ve created our Guide to Health Insurance in Vietnam so that you can have the best user experience as possible.
So here’s what you need to know:
It’s a For-Profit Industry
Private health insurance is a for-profit industry. Full stop. With that, there are terms and conditions, policy exclusions, and processes that must be followed. This is to help Insurance Provider manage their risk, check the validity of claims, and make sure they’re not paying out more for claims than they should be. And yes, it’s not uncommon for hospitals here to charge Insurers 2x or 3x for claims!
This is why Full Medical Underwriting is required to sign up for a policy. Insurance Providers charge different premiums for different risk profiles, different countries of origin, and can even charge extra based on medical history. As with any purchase, you want to compare products and understand the pros and cons before buying.
Number of Variables
There are about 10-15 different variables that go into making a recommendation on which provider and plan are best for you. You can have the same job, play the same sports, travel to the same countries and basically be 90% similar to one of your mates, but because of that 10% it completely changes which policy is actually best suited for you.
Aside from pre-existing conditions and medical history, some other variables include your age, profession, weight, where you travel, or even your nationality. There is no one, single, one size fits all, “best” insurance policy; you should get advice before signing up for a plan.
Any price for any policy that anyone shows you are purely indicative in nature. They are the standard rates for your average, healthy person and do not factor into occupational hazards, pre-existing conditions, or extra fees for high BMI (30+) or smoker status. To minimize the surprise of potential changes when the actual bill comes out, discuss policy options with your insurance provider or broker.
Cost of Health Insurance in Vietnam:
To get quality, private, international, health insurance, you can expect to pay between 500 to 5,000 USD. That’s a massive range to work with, but it ultimately depends on:
- Your Age
- Benefits Offered
- Benefit Limitations
- Direct Billing Services
- Coverage Area
- Terms & Conditions
- Provider Quality
- Pre-Existing Conditions
You can have pre-existing conditions covered if they’re declared to the Insurer, and accepted during the application process. Some types of medical conditions can be covered by some Insurance Providers, other types will never be covered. The main purpose of insurance is to cover you for new things that happen to you after the start date, not to cover you for the treatments that you currently require.
You don’t have to declare every bump, bruise, cough, or cold you’ve ever had, but it’s always advisable to declare relevant injuries, surgeries, and medical conditions. If you’re not sure what’s relevant, consult with your insurance broker. In any event, what they taught us in kindergarten still applies to get private health insurance in Vietnam: Honesty is the best policy.
Cheap Insurers are Cheap for a Reason
Just like anything, you generally get what you pay for. Cheaper providers are going to have more exclusions, less robust direct billing networks, and will look into all claims with a fine-toothed comb. They implement waiting periods for “Special Diseases” that would otherwise be disregarded by other providers. The terms of their policies also give them more control to manage their bad risk by levying very large premium increases at your renewal date.
If you have big claims from the previous year, or if you’re suddenly suffering from a chronic condition, then you’re a liability to them. Expect the “for-profit” part of a for-profit company to rear its ugly head. Ask a trusted insurance adviser about “Experience vs Community Ratings” for private health insurance in Vietnam. Sounds a bit dry, but it’s actually quite an interesting conversation.
Direct Billing System
Not all types of treatments can have direct billing. Sometimes you will still need to pay and claim. Some treatments may need to be pre-authorized, some will be given a Guarantee of Payment. Sometimes you may need to wait around, or you may have to pay out of pocket. Sometimes hospital/clinic staff just try to get you to pay cash because it’s easier for them, as they don’t have to deal with the insurance companies – thereby forcing to you do the claim yourself.
These direct billing relationships are developed between Insurance Providers (the insurance companies) and Health Providers (clinics and hospitals). It depends on who your provider is, how good they are to the clinics in their billing list, the type of claim, and how long you’ve been insured. It’s far from a perfect system, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s very helpful to have a broker who’s familiar with this intricate web of relationships, who can mediate on your behalf, and iron things out between Insurance Providers and Health Providers.
Local Providers’ Dirty Secret
With most local insurance in Vietnam, at the renewal date, they can do with you basically whatever they want, including:
- Not offer you a renewal (only the really cheap local ones)
- Reduce your maximum payable for a condition. Yes, they can change your benefits so you can’t claim as much next year as what you originally signed up for this year
- Make you take a deductible/excess
- Make you take a co-pay
- Skyrocket your premium
Or some combination of the above. Not all of them are like this, but most of the local insurers with Vietnamese names and some with Western names that masquerade as international insurers have before and will do so again. Simply put, if you’re a liability to them, they’re going to figure out a way to either remove or reduce that liability.
Cost of Health Care in Vietnam Will Only Increase
Premiums increase with age, economic inflation, and especially medical inflation. There is a rising cost of healthcare with better doctors, equipment, and facilities. As hospitals are charging more, insurance will cost more over time. You can sometimes offset rising costs with no-claims discounts or deductibles, but insurance prices will increase over time. So, ironically, it’s best to start getting a good policy while you’re young, healthy and don’t necessarily “need it”.
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