We're going to let you in on a secret; insurance is like most things, you tend to get what you pay for. We're going to reveal why with a real anecdote that just happened (01/08/19). As we arrived in our office on this sunny morning, we had a new health insurance request as follows:
I need health insurance. I was insured by (Insert local insurer) and I was hospitalized for 3 days a couple months ago. At my recent renewal date, they kicked me off my plan so now I need to find new insurance."
First, let's define what we mean when we say local Vietnamese insurance provider. A local insurer provides health insurance to residents of Vietnam and they have an office in Vietnam.
The way the vast majority of local insurers work is that they base your renewal on your claims experience in the previous year. They don't factor in their other insurance members, just you & family members. This is called experience rating.
This is good if:
You don't claim or only have minor, routine claims.
This is bad if:
You have major claims that cost more than your premium, surgeries, repeated doctor visits, cancer or get a myriad of other chronic conditions
The first time you have major claims, your policy may work well even. You may be really happy and think to yourself "This is great, I'm glad I bought insurance from (insert local health insurer)." However the true test of provider is to see how they treat you at the annual renewal date following a big claims year.
Local providers are legally allowed to do the following:
1) Not Renew your Policy
Good luck finding a new provider to cover your condition
2) Change your Benefit Limits
You know that $100,000 policy you signed up for? Yes, they can lower the maximum claimable for that condition to what they want.
3) Force a Co-pay
Make you pay 20% of all medical bills.
4) Increase premiums 300%
They need to make up your previous year's claims somehow, right?
Hold on, hold on, hold on....they can just decide to not renew my policy at all? What happens then? Yup, if they don't do #1, they'll do some combination of #2 - #4. And yes, they can legally give you the boot. Then you have to find a new provider who will agree and accept that condition. You see how this gets tricky for more serious injuries, illness & medical conditions? You'd have to declare your condition to in order to get coverage, which is hard to do for more serious injuries & medical conditions.
The true test of insurers is how they treat you at your renewal date following large claims year. Most local insurers in Vietnam treat you like a liability. Liabilities aren't good for business, so they need to get you off their books via #1 or #2 - #4.
No one told me that"
This is how all but 3 local insurers operate for personal health insurance, including some very household brand names that are popular with Expats & Vietnamese.
This is why we recommend speaking to a reputable broker, even if that's not Tenzing. A good broker will inform you about that ahead of time & let you make that decision yourself.
So which insurance providers do you recommend?
We focus on providers who focus on Asia as a region, rather than solely just Vietnam. These providers are what you call community rated providers, who pool all their members together, which mitigates your individual personal risk. They are legally bound to continue your policy regardless of your state of health at your renewal date. Furthermore, they can do none of the four things mentioned above. Such providers offer three core things:
Peace of mind
Such providers are the best value all things considered. They are not the cheapest & far from the most expensive.
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From the best valued providers, all things considered.