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Foreigners living in Asia : why you should get health insurance

by William Gist

Getting a job abroad is often a real boost to your CV. It is the opportunity to discover a new culture, to deepen your language skills, to develop your network while acquiring new experience. To leave with peace of mind, it is important to take out good international health coverage.

In general, you can find a selection of international health insurance adapted to each profile: whether you are going on an internship or choosing to expatriate for a longer period. In this article, you will cover the case for expatriates who go to South East Asia and especially Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia for a graduation state, an expatriate job or even to retire.

Social health-care for going abroad: tourists, intern, workers

Are we covered by social security when we go to work abroad? It all depends on your professional situation and the country in which you are moving abroad.

  • You leave less than a year: if you leave for an EU Member State, you can apply for the European Health Care Card and benefit from medical care according to the legislation in force in the country in question (caution, reimbursements that are often very limited and valid for a stay of less than 90 consecutive days in theory). However, if you go outside the EU, you will not be covered, so it is imperative to take out international health insurance.
  • You are an expatriate (you are directly recruited by a local company, or your employer has not chosen the secondment scheme): in this case, you are no longer covered by most of the European Health Care (governmental related). You can choose to keep contributing to this insurance to be protected and got reimbursements with the normal social security rates, which may not be sufficient in many countries, it is imperative to take out private medical insurance.
  • You are on secondment (both in Europe and elsewhere in countries with or without an agreement): you are covered by European social security. Attention however the refunds will be limited to the amounts you could have received if you had stayed in France. Sometimes, if the country of secondment so requires, you will also have to contribute to local social security. It is strongly recommended to take out supplementary health insurance for foreign countries.

Why should you take out health insurance before you move to another country to live and work?

Whatever your situation, taking out international health insurance provider is highly recommended for several reasons:


Preventing financial risk

Health costs vary widely from one country to another and can quickly reach exorbitant amounts in some countries. A day of hospitalization in the USA can cost more than €10,000. International health insurance service will cover your health costs much better than EHIC or even ETC. In addition, insurance companies often include repatriation, or civil liability if you injure someone else…

Preventing health risks

Not all countries have sufficiently developed medical infrastructures to ensure good patient care or sufficiently qualified staff. In particular, the insurance offers repatriation assistance guarantees to compensate for local shortfalls.

Preventing difficulties in accessing care

Even in countries where the health system is more efficient, delays in access to care in public hospitals can be very long such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or even Thailand. The health service allows reimbursement of care provided by private medicine, with the free choice of doctor or hospital, anywhere in the world.

Prevent legal complications

In some countries, a simple road accident can lead to a lockdown. Insurance generally includes a legal protection guarantee.

Choice criteria for international health insurance for expats

To make an informed choice that is adapted to your needs, it is always useful to look carefully at certain aspects of your international health insurance:

  1. the amount of any deductible applied
  2. reimbursement limits
  3. any waiting periods
  4. the benefits included or optional that you would absolutely need (e.g. civil liability, dental and optical coverage, maternity)


Example of expats: travelers, intern, and retired living in Vietnam

A few weeks ago, the result of a study was published by Movetoasia.com. This article covered all the specifications and goes deep in detail about the rules an expat (a young worker, a student doing an internship and even a foreigner getting retired in Vietnam) must follow to still being protected by a healthcare service provider. It is pretty common to read articles about foreigners who are facing problems after an accident because they did not register for expat health insurance (local or international one). The consequences and risks for the health can be severe especially for retiree expat living in Vietnam without health insurance. The result of this research and study about the best health insurance for expat living in Vietnam (click here to see the results of this study) provide advice about the process someone should follow after settling down in Vietnam. It may be skipped for tourists who plan to stay a few weeks but should not be avoided from expats planning to live in Vietnam a couple of months or even years.