10 Things to Consider When Buying Expat Medical Insurance in Vietnam
If you’ve ever properly looked online for Expat Medical Insurance in Vietnam, you’ve probably realised how confusing it is.
Overwhelming is an adjective that comes to mind when looking at the possibilities!
So where do you start?
We suggest starting with the type of provider: a Vietnamese provider or an International provider. Overall, there are many similarities between them, such as benefits offered, processes, making claims, exclusions & rules.
But there are a heap of differences that may affect your decision, including:
Freedom of Treatment
Payment Options and VATs
Let’s get started with more info:
1. Benefit Levels For Your Expat Medical Insurance In Vietnam
Vietnamese providers tend to have lower benefit levels and more limitations on the benefits, such as per day or per visit limits as they are designed for Vietnam only. This may open up the possibility of having out of pocket expenses.
International providers tend to have higher benefits levels and less limitations on benefits.
Out of Pocket
Days in Hospital
Total Expense to you
|Room and Board (Inpatient)
Limit per Visit
Average per Visit
Total Expense to You
(about 200 USD)
When your plan has benefit limits in them it can limit where you go to receive treatments if you’re trying to avoid paying any additional out of pocket expenses. That may not sound like a big deal now, but when you need urgent care, you want to be somewhere with the best facilities and doctors.
2. Freedom Of Treatment
If you have a planned operation and your coverage area is SE Asia or Worldwide, you may want to go to another country to receive treatment instead of taking it in Vietnam.
International providers allow you to have full coverage for any treatment anywhere in your coverage area, regardless of the price discrepancy between your residing country and the country you have the treatment in.
3. Renewal Terms
Insurers use two methods to determine their renewal premiums: Experience rating & community rating. These are important to understand as it will affect your premium at renewal.
Experience rating is when your renewal premium is calculated based on how much you’ve used your insurance in the previous year. Higher claim ratios lead to higher renewal premiums. Lower claims leads to stable premiums.
We consider this type of rating quite risky in the long-term because if you have high claim ratio or develop a chronic condition that requires on-going treatments. Your renewal may not even be guaranteed, you could lose your policy entirely. Your premiums can be skyrocketed, benefits can be limited or co-pays applied. Your insurance is at the discretion of the insurer, which isn’t the most comforting thought, especially if you have to go find a new provider with a serious pre-existing condition.
We only recommend providers using this rating to clients who are looking for short-term insurance or only need a temporary solution while being on a tight budget.
Community rating is when the insurer takes all their members and diversifies the risk among everyone. They evaluate the performance of their entire portfolio over the year and apply a fixed annual premium increase for everyone, regardless of your claim history in the previous year(s).
Your premium would increase regardless if you had $0 claims* or if you had a severe accident, developed a chronic condition or cost your insurer $20,000. This increase is usually in the 5-10% per year, which also takes into account medical inflation.
*If you’ve not made any claims, there are a few providers offer no-claims discount. This can offset the premium increase.
This is how most (not all) International providers handle their renewal terms.
It’s also important to note that in addition to your claims history, there can still be other premium increases for age, inflation or changes in benefits.
Get a Direct Comparison of Insurance Providers
4. Direct Billing
Vietnamese providers have extensive direct billing networks within Vietnam for inpatient and outpatient services. They will work with a wide range of hospitals and clinics throughout the country.
Some providers will offer direct billing if you’re outside of Vietnam for emergency inpatient services. Most will not offer any direct billing outside of Vietnam even if you’re travelling somewhere in your coverage area.
You’d have to pay and claim for any treatment outside your direct billing network.
While International providers may not have as extensive direct billing network in Vietnam, they will offer direct billing at the major expat hospitals and clinics such as FV Hospital, Columbia Asia Hospital or Family Medical Practice.
International providers usually have more direct billing options outside of Vietnam & SE Asia, especially for inpatient treatments.
If you move to another country and you’re with a local provider, you’ll need a new provider & policy in your new country. If you have covered conditions, this could become an issue when looking for a new provider.
If you’re on an international plan and you move, your plan will move with you as long as you remain an expat. There may be premium adjustments depending on where you move.
This is important because every time you change plans, you expose yourself to additional risk. Previously covered conditions are now liable to exclusions, waiting periods start over, you go back to square one again. If a medical condition presents itself shortly after you join a new plan, it’s likely to be denied as a pre-existing condition.
6. Payment Options
Vietnamese providers are less flexible with having payment options such as monthly or quarterly payments. They usually only accept an annual payment upfront. This may not be an issue if your premium is $300/year, but if your premium is $3,000, then that may be a different story. Only a select couple of providers will offer more frequent payment options.
International providers offer more payment options, allowing you to break up the expenses throughout the year. Be aware you may need to use a credit card or you could have transfer issues if you’re paying offshore from a Vietnamese bank.
7. VAT Invoice
If you need a VAT invoice for any reason, then you’ll need to take a Vietnamese provider. If you’re sure you want an International plan but your employer requires you to submit a VAT invoice, speak with your HR department or Management to see if you can troubleshoot this issue.
Vietnamese providers require you to have a valid Vietnamese driver’s license for your bike in the event of an accident, even if it’s not your fault. If you’re license is expired, you’ll need to get it renewed.
Insurers can and will deny coverage if you do not have a license or if you are operating under the influence or if you’re driving illegally in any way. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, an international license will not work.
International providers will have a variety of rules and you’ll want to check directly with your broker regarding what’s required. You’ll either need no license, an international license or a license from your residing country.
This will vary by provider, international providers tend to cover your for all treatments sustained while participating in sports.
A few key Vietnamese providers will exclude coverage from organised contact sports such as Football or Rugby, even if it’s just for fun.
All professional sports are excluded from coverage with either.
If you participate in extreme sports or something that’s normally considered hazardous, please contact Tenzing for your options, and read more about the right insurance policies that cover sport.
Price will often be someone’s most important factor which influences their decision to buy a plan. We’d strongly advise taking a look at the bigger picture when deciding who’s the best option for your expat medical insurance in Vietnam.
On average Vietnamese providers will be lower premium for a variety of the aforementioned reasons in this article. While it’s not always true, International providers tend to have higher premiums.
Our Guide to Insurance Premiums in Vietnam will help you to get a better idea about premiums and our tips will save you money on your insurance costs.
So, What’s Best For Me?
That’s a question that 5 people with similar profiles could ask us and we may recommend 5 different plans. You have to understand that selecting the right expat medical insurance in Vietnam is an individualized decision. Everyone’s needs are different and require special consideration. Our health insurance questionnaire can help us understand your situation & needs and provide you the most suitable options.