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Vietnam - Healthcare

For Vietnam veterans a Gold Card gives them free medical and dental care in Australia. But that means nothing in Vietnam, where medical services are not free and are generally of a poor standard.

Most expats seem prepared to risk this, but as Ian, who has a Gold Card, pointed out, medical services are an issue in Vietnam unless you have expensive health insurance.

‘I couldn’t afford to go to the international clinic (SOS, which is an international medical group operating clinics in 70 countries) ,’ he said. ‘I go to a local hospital. Vietnamese doctors are very cheap. I go to Medicoast, (a Vietnamese Hospital) down the back beach here, and I get full blood work done for A$40.’

Dan said he really needs to give health insurance more attention. ‘I have travel insurance through my credit card, and I am fully covered back in Australia with a Gold Card, but I do need to look at my international insurance cover.’

However, he added, ‘It doesn’t cost a lot of money to go to the doctor here.’

Ross is another Vietnam veteran we met in Vung Tau. He said, ‘Health is probably one of my biggest concerns. When I first started coming here, I had health insurance and now the price is through the roof because I have pre-existing conditions, including atrial fibrillation.

‘A couple of times I have been concerned about treatment and thought of flying home. I go to the hospital and the doctor can’t explain his findings to me. My wife’s English isn’t that good—she can’t explain what I want to say.

‘But, on the other hand, the doctors are pretty good here. One female Vietnamese doctor I go to was trained in Melbourne—she is based in Ho Chi Minh but comes to Vung Tau occasionally.

‘And services are cheap. I can go to a heart specialist here with all the tests for A$70.’

Rose and Sam, who were only covered by travel insurance, also found that medical services of good quality were available—and the cost affordable. The only time they needed a hospital, after Sam had a fall and required stitching, they used the international SOS clinic. ‘We found it perfectly fine,’ Rose said. ‘He was treated by an American doctor.’

She added that she went to a dentist in Saigon, who’s sister was a dentist in Brisbane, and the quality of work was as good as any in Australia. ‘But it was like one-eighth the price of dentistry in Australia—I was shocked.’

However, if you are living in a country like Vietnam and have no evacuation or medical insurance and you are over 50, you are flirting with danger. What happens if the local medical service cannot cope with your injuries or illness? You will have to be evacuated by plane to another country. This evacuation costs tens of thousands and then there are the medical costs that will be incurred in Singapore, Bangkok, Australia, or wherever else you may be evacuated to.

Even if you are still a resident of Australia, like Kevin and Jean of Hoi An, and are covered when you arrive in Australia, the cost of evacuation is still an issue. As well, Australian medical cover does not cover you for treatment in Vietnam.

Importantly,, if you have been a non-resident of Australia for more than five years, your Medicare cover ceases to exist.

All of this points to the need to look into some form of international private health insurance cover (see chapter on Health insurance)

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