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Wait! There are no healthcare insurance laws protecting expats in Vietnam?

For any expat living in Vietnam, you’ve made the vibrant streets of Vietnam your home, immersing yourself in the rich culture and dynamic lifestyle. However, when it comes to healthcare, you’re faced with a complex landscape, and navigating it requires careful consideration. As the insurance sector is NOT REGULATED for consumer protection, when it comes to insurance contracts, 90% of what you know or believe in is NOT APPLICABLE in Vietnam.

As an expat, finding the right healthcare insurance is paramount for your well-being. So what exactly are the local rules and intricacies of healthcare insurance protection in Vietnam?

Stakeholders in Healthcare Insurance

Understanding the various stakeholders is crucial in making informed decisions about your healthcare coverage. Here’s a breakdown, ordered by trustworthiness and quality advice:

Regulator & Ombudsman (FCA, Orias, MAS, HK I&M Authority)

The regulatory bodies play a pivotal role in overseeing the insurance sector, ensuring adherence to laws and safeguarding consumer interests. In most frontier countries like Vietnam, Lao or Cambodia, for insurance and health protection there are no regulatory bodies yet. They would wait for complaints to eventually establish an entity to rule the litigations between insurers and insured clients. In Vietnam, there is no such thing. Note for the stock markets there has been a regulatory body for many years, but it does not work that well as one can read the many scandals linked to stock manipulation and wild public bond issuance.

See Vietnam regulator organization without Consumer protection dept:

International Insurers and Branding (Allianz Care, Cigna, Axa PPP, William Russell, April, Henner Intl)

Recognized global insurers bring international standards and a reputation for reliability, offering expats a sense of security. Most of those are regulated in the EU where consumer protection is key to good business practices but also government regulations in the field of medical insurance, one cannot collect your insurance premiums and cancel your policy as soon as a client shows signs of cancer or chronic disease.

Independent Specialty Broker (InsuranceinAsia, Clema, Pacific Prime, Abacare)

Specialized brokers offer tailored advice, ensuring you get a policy that aligns with your unique needs. As those are specialized in the health insurance for locals or Expats, they can not jeopardize their reputation with insurers or their target clients without risking going out of business.
Additionally specialist brokers understand the local rules and international regulations; long term residents established in a country can navigate the pure ‘BS’ of rogue behavior from the inacceptable. When it comes professionals see clearly through the insurers pricing of practice that can vary from ‘too cheap to be true’, good value-for-money to extortionate premium level for limited cover.

Vietnam-based Insurer (Bao Viet, PTI, Liberty, Athena Global Consulting)

Local insurers provide insights into the Vietnamese market but may have limitations compared to global counterparts. The 3 main limitations are:

  • The Vietnamese business laws (there are no specific health insurance laws) consider insurers are like any company must make a profit and pay taxes accordingly. In effect, if a client is a loss making account due to high claims for chronic condition medical treatment costs, you can decide whatever makes sense to stay profitable.
  • Most Vietnamese insurers like Bao Viet, Bao Minh, PTI Post Telecom Insurance or PVI Petro Vietnam Insurance are owned by the Ministry of Finance, the ministry in charge of your complaints against insurers. Therefore making any decision against their ‘affiliated’ insurers to pay your claim of 30,000$ hospital fee is the same amount in profit that will not be taxable to the state coffers and that will not make it back up to the Ministry of Finance budget, as year-end dividends will be reduced by that $30K
  • Last but not least, life and non-life insurers employ 1,100,000 employees and contribute US$5.8Bn equivalent to the Vietnam state coffers. One has no interest in ‘messing around with the hen of the golden eggs’.

Top#10 non-life insurer: a state-owned monopolistic limited choice.

TPA Third Party Agent for Services (Pacific, Globalsafe, Insmart, WTW, MAI, Eurocenter, ExpatTPAIntl SOS Evacuation)

Third-party agents manage services efficiently, enhancing the overall healthcare experience for expats. When it comes to claims processing in a specific country, language and healthcare practices can be a huge barrier for some expat health insurers. This is when they hire the service of TPA like Eurocenter to process claims for instance. Even more so when it comes to medical emergency evacuation in case of an accident or natural catastrophe like an earthquake. It takes specialists like International SOS or Mondial Assistance to help insurers deal with this part of their promised benefit effectively to save lives. We are often consulted to refer a specialist surgeon or hospital when Cambodia or Vietnam clients need a second opinion to local hospital teams.

Locally Registered International Broker (Aon, Marsh, WTW, Aegis)

Established brokers with a local presence offer a blend of global expertise and an understanding of the Vietnamese insurance landscape. As general insurers they cover mainly property, factories, cargo, transportation, product and professional liability for business needs. Their team are mainly Vietnamese and can only sell Vietnam registered insurance products. Because of such a wide range of types of non-life insurance they need to sell to their multinational corporate clients, they have a limited choice to 2-3 Vietnam-based insurers. This lack of choice makes it difficult for them to find cheap solutions for Individuals, families and SME.

Can a salesman help you against his company claims depart when your claim is denied?

Independent Agent IFA International Financial Advisors (Tenzing, Asia Summit, Athena Brokers)

Local agents provide a bridge between expats and the Vietnamese insurance market, offering insights tailored to the local context.
Most are ‘like minded’ brokers, Expat brokers for Expats providing investment and savings ‘protection’ provision and health insurance plans. Their main source of income is financial planning as their company name indicates, setting up mainly Pension plans, investment for retirement, life and disability insurance over the less lucrative medical insurance.

Insurers Sales Team or Captive Agent (Liberty, Pacific, Bao Viet Salesmen)

While convenient, sales teams tied to specific insurers may prioritize company interests over yours. Most of the time their presentation of their insurance products are rosy or ‘too good to be true’. They may forget to explain some treacherous fine prints like ‘special disease’, waiting periods or guaranteed renewal terms, thus lying by omission. You may need to know the 5 professional insurance criteria to screen and rate if an insurer is reliable and suitable for your needs

Insurance Sector Situation in Vietnam

Comparing the insurance sector in Vietnam to international standards is vital for expats seeking reliable coverage. The landscape includes:

Insurer Diversity

Vietnam boasts a mix of local and international insurers, offering a range of choices for expats. However, understanding the strengths and limitations of each is crucial. In developing countries all sorts of insurers co-exist as insurance laws have yet to be drafted and voted. Since 2003 Vietnam launch of private enterprise laws: Vietnamese insurers, foreign brands using Vietnam regulation loopholes and International brands caring for their reputation (by following what the laws dictate in their home country) can decide what level of compliance they want to apply to be profitable. Our job is to review their practices every year so weed out the unreliable insurers, those who become ‘rogue’ and update our clients so they can informed decision on their family medical protection.

Vietnam non life insurance a state-owned oligopole:

Regulatory Framework

As there are no insurance laws in Vietnam -private enterprise laws were promulgated in 2003 and revised in 2008-, such as the UK Insurance Act 2015 and the Code des Assurances.

Expats will need to ensure compliance with international standards, by reading the insurance ‘Terms and conditions’ and fine prints -sometimes asking a confirmation in writing- to foster transparency and reliability of the insurer and the benefits of the product you decide to purchase.

Quality of Service

Assessing the quality of service from insurers, brokers, and agents against global benchmarks helps expats make informed decisions for their healthcare needs. Nowadays ask on social networks for review or ‘retex’ retour d’experience on facebook groups. Most of the time the answer will be overwhelmingly positive! And the reason is simple, 95% of the insurance claims are for small bills that the insurer will pay more or less easily in the end: this is their purpose in life. The real problem is for the 5% case where your evacuation to Thailand, your surgery and your 7-day rehabilitation stay at Bumrungrad is denied as the overall bill is above $25,000. It is very unlikely that those cases are exposed on the social media simply because the ‘victim’ has to be reading your blogpost but also such cases going public social media are dealt and settled one-to-one in total confidentiality so the testimonial is withdrawn from your eyes.

Have you found healthcare insurance that truly caters to your needs as an expat in Vietnam?

As you navigate the healthcare insurance terrain in developing countries Vietnam, consider your options carefully. Seek advice from reputable insurance professionals, understand the local regulatory framework, and align your coverage with international standards. At Insurance in Asia, our full service offering since 1994, includes healthcare insurance solutions for expats in Vietnam and Asia, providing guidance and support. Remember, your health is your wealth in a foreign land. 


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Not only health insurance is different but most general insurance: accident, life, home, travel, office or even car insurance will be different than your past experiences.