An increasing number of patients in Vietnam are giving up on their health insurance plans and agree to pay for premium services, due to the endless wait and many other troubles during their health examinations.
Health insurance was previously embraced as it can cover up to 80 percent of a patient’s medical bill.
However, one of the most excruciating drawbacks to be able to get the insurance coverage is that patients have to wait for ages for their turn to see the doctor.
This is always the case for major hospitals in big cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, which have been overcrowded by not only local patients but those from nearby provinces.
Many insured patients have no choice but to ditch their insurances and apply for ‘premium services,’ which cost a lot more but save them a great deal of wait time.
The long wait
At around 9:00 am on July 12, Nguyen Thanh Chung, a 34-year-old resident from the southern province of Dong Nai, arrived at the Oncology Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City for a cancer screening.
Chung registered for an insurance-backed examination, which cost him VND39,000 ($1.7), and was given the queue number of over 300, while the hospital had only served a little more than 100 patients.
|Patients wait for their turn at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
One of the infirmary’s staff members warned that Chung might not be able to have his check-up within that day due to the long wait, advising that he should apply for the examination service with a premium cost.
For VND200,000 ($8.7), Chung would only have to wait for five or six people before his turn, the employee said.
A similar recommendation was also given to T., 45, another patient from Dong Nai.
“No one can wait that long,” T. said, referring to the 200-strong crowd in the wait, before paying for the check-up service.
Statistics of the hospital showed that only 32 percent of patients use their health insurance for check-ups.
While many were willing to neglect their insurance policies because of the wait, others were not allowed to benefit from their insurance plans due to the lack of a ‘transfer paper.’
According to regulations, a health insurance plan is only considered valid if used at the same hospital the patient has registered.
If they want to use the insurance at a different infirmary, a ‘transfer paper’ signed by doctors at the original hospital is required.
In order to obtain the ‘transfer paper,’ patients must first undergo a health check-up at the hospital that they register on their insurance.
After the examination, doctors at the infirmary will decide whether or not the patients should be transferred to another facility.
Patients can also ask the doctors to sign a ‘transfer paper’ for them, but the request is not always accepted.
This hurdle only makes people less inclined to use the insurance.
|Patients are diagnosed at the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
When reality strikes
As more and more patients choose to pay high fees to get their health checks quicker, the wait for this kind of service becomes longer and the process is not as quick and easy as promised.
L.T.H., a Ho Chi Minh City resident who paid for such service at the Oncology Hospital, said that the queues are often very long, while doctors do not have enough time for each patient.
H. added she sometimes had to wait nearly a day for her turn, or even had to pay extra costs for overtime services.
On July 13, P.T.M.P., a 60-year-old resident in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, had to ask for her money back as she could not wait any longer at the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics.
She arrived early in the morning and waited until 5:00 pm that day.
Nguyen Xuan Ngoc, 53, hailing from the south-central province of Binh Thuan, also found himself in a similar situation.
Ngoc has received treatment for his degenerative spine conditions at a hospital in Binh Thuan, which was registered on his health insurance, without any positive results.
As previous doctors refused to give him a ‘transfer paper,’ he had to pay for regular services at the Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopaedics in Ho Chi Minh City.
“I arrived at 5:00 am and was still unable to complete the check-up by at end of the day,” Ngoc said.