With its low cost of living, breathtaking scenery, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder Vietnam is fast becoming a popular choice amongst American expats. After all, what more could you want?

But before you join the 83,500 expats from across the world living in Vietnam, you’ll need to size up the healthcare options available. Luckily, we’ve got everything you need to know waiting for you further down the page.

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Vietnamese healthcare: key statistics

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    % of people with private insurance
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    Average life expectancy
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    World healthcare score /100
A view of rice fields in Vietnam

A view of one of the many rich green rice paddies in Vietnam, basking in the sun

How does Vietnam’s healthcare system work?

Vietnam’s healthcare system has undergone a radical transformation since 2014. This is thanks to the Vietnamese government pushing for universal healthcare, and as a result, over 80% of citizens in Vietnam now have access to healthcare.

The current healthcare system is a mixture of both public and private facilities. Public facilities make up the majority of the system, and they focus on four different levels of service: central, provincial, district, and commune.

Each level has a two-pronged system, focusing on prevention – similar to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US – and clinical acute care (short-term treatment for a severe injury or episode of illness).

Previously reliant solely on tax, this healthcare system now has three sources of funding. These are:

  • Government revenue – This usually comes from infrastructure development and recurrent spending (mainly at the provincial level)
  • Social health insurance contributions
  • Out-of-pocket payments

So, what can you expect to be covered for by Vietnam’s public healthcare system?

  • Inpatient and outpatient care
  • Consultant fees
  • Pathology
  • Medications
  • Pregnancy check-ups
  • Transport support for vulnerable people
  • Eyesight treatment for children under six
  • Treatment in cases of suicide or self-inflicted injuries
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Birth defects and inborn diseases

To make sure more people can afford to access this care, there are two types of healthcare cover available in Vietnam, which are both managed by Vietnam Social Security (VSS):

  • Compulsory social security cover – This applies to all workers on permanent contracts of more than three months, as well as several other categories, including children under six, financially unstable people, students, over-90s, and war veterans
  • Voluntary health insurance – This applies to anyone not covered by the mandatory scheme, such as self-employed and informal workers

Compulsory health insurance contribution rates amount to 4.5% of income, with 3% provided by the employer and 1.5% by the employee.

Is healthcare in Vietnam free?

As it stands, some Vietnamese citizens have to pay for medical services themselves, at both public and private hospitals. The 80% of citizens that are eligible for cheaper care include:

  • Formal sector workers
  • Children under six (100% subsidized)
  • Financially unstable people (100% subsidized)
  • ‘Near poor’ (70% subsidized)
  • Full-time students (30% subsidized)
  • Social insurance pensioners (paid by employers)
  • Beneficiaries of social assistance programmes (farmers or fishermen with low income)

If you fall outside of these brackets, you’ll have to pay the full amount. Thankfully, the cost of care in Vietnam is usually much cheaper compared to many Western countries. For example. public hospital consultations usually cost less than $5, a consultation with a specialist costs less than $30, while on average, the total medical care costs paid out-of-pocket by patients during hospitalisation come to roughly $270.

Busy streets in Vietnam

Tourists walk along the tracks of the famous Train Street in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam

Quality of healthcare in Vietnam

The Lancet gives Vietnam’s healthcare system 60 out of a total of 100 points. If we look at that through an optimistic lens, it’s not a terrible score – but there’s certainly a lot of room for improvement.

If you’re moving to Vietnam from the US, you might be disappointed with the standard of care. Many expats who live in Vietnam often report that the standard of the country’s public hospitals is not on par with what they’re used to.

Public hospitals in Vietnam are usually underfunded and not very well-equipped – meaning waiting times can often be frustratingly long. You’ll generally find that levels of quality and availability will dip even further in rural areas. And in some of the more remote parts of the country, public healthcare is almost non-existent.

On top of this, if you’re unfamiliar with the local language, visiting the GP or hospital might be a bit stressful, since a lot of medical staff at these facilities generally only speak Vietnamese. You can, however, find a list of local English-speaking physicians from the US Embassy in Hanoi, or the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite this lower quality of healthcare, Vietnam has been one of the most effective countries when tackling the coronavirus pandemic – with less than 40 people in the country having passed away from the virus so far.

Plus, the Vietnamese government is working hard to transform and improve facilities. New hospitals have been built in several smaller cities, including Nha Trang, Vung Tau, and Phu Quoc, and there are now two internationally accredited general hospitals – one in Hanoi, and the other in Ho Chi Minh City.

Healthcare in Vietnam for foreigners

Expats are able to use health facilities in Vietnam, as long as they contribute through compulsory health insurance. Compulsory health insurance contributions are applicable to both Vietnamese and foreign individuals that are employed under Vietnam labour contracts.

Unfortunately, this mandatory cover is not always enough to protect people from the full costs of healthcare, leading many expats to opt for private medical insurance in Vietnam.

Do I need health insurance in Vietnam?

In total, 87.7% of Vietnam’s population – or 83.6 million people – are covered by health insurance, thanks to the compulsory social security cover.

As we mentioned in the previous section, all expats need to contribute to the compulsory health insurance plan to benefit from Vietnamese facilities. However, you may find that compulsory health insurance does not provide you with enough cover, so you may be tempted to take out some private health insurance too.

Overall, 7% of the Vietnamese population invests in private medical insurance.

According to the US State Department: “It is extremely important that travelers have sufficient funds and/or insurance to cover any potential medical costs. Frequently, hospitals will hold onto a patient’s passport as collateral for payment, and patients may have difficulty getting their passport back without paying their medical bills in full. Patients who do not pay their medical bills in full also run the risk of being barred from departing the country.”

If you’d like to find out how much medical insurance will cost you and your family, get a free personalized quote by building a customized plan with Cigna.

Benefits of private medical cover in Vietnam

Private healthcare can offer a few extra things that Vietnam’s public healthcare can’t, including:

  • A network of private hospitals (in addition to public ones)
  • Shorter waiting times
  • Better facilities
  • Fewer language barriers
  • Cover for ongoing expenses

Although this higher standard of healthcare comes at a price, many expats still decide to invest in private medical insurance, in order to prevent any nasty financial surprises.

How much does health insurance cost in Vietnam?

On average, the cost of health insurance in Vietnam is $7,775 – an individual plan is more likely to be roughly $4,038, while a family plan can cost you around $11,512.

Bear in mind that this price will fluctuate massively from person to person, depending on:

  • The provider
  • The plan/level of coverage
  • Whether you have any preexisting conditions
  • The region you’re moving to
  • Whether you’re male or female

That’s why we’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Vietnam – to help sort you out with a plan that suits your needs. Start building a customized plan today!

Although health insurance can be quite costly, you’ll thank your lucky stars you invested in it if you have an unexpected bill to pay.

To give you an idea of how much you can expect to fork out for different treatments, we’ve listed a few examples below. As you can see, taking out a private health insurance plan will make sure you avoid some pretty costly bills:

  • Consultation with a private GP – Between 900,000 and 1.6 million VND ($38.85 – $69.07). Bear in mind that international clinics will be more pricey. Consultations in the SOS Clinic in Hanoi, for example, will cost roughly 2,000,000 VND ($86.34)
  • Consultation with a private specialist – Between 1 million and 1.7 million VND ($43.17 – $73.39), but again, expect international clinics to charge more. In the SOS Clinic in Hanoi, for example, a consultation costs roughly 2.9 million VND ($125.19)
  • Consultation with a private dentist – A routine consultation is usually free, but can be up to $10 in some facilities. The placement of a dental crown varies between 800,000 and 7,000,000 VND ($34.53 – $302.18), depending on the type of crown

Hospital expenses at a private hospital – Hospital costs vary considerably, depending on the medical condition being treated and the chosen hospital. A 24-hour stay in the SOS International Hospital for an adult with gastroenteritis will be around 20-24 million VND ($863.37 – $1,036.04)

Next steps

Hopefully, you’re now feeling more confident about the healthcare options available to you for your move. Whether you settle for the compulsory cover, or decide to invest in private medical insurance, you can move to Vietnam without a worry about medical bills.