Your guide to health insurance in Laos
Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) is a small, landlocked, ethnically diverse, mountainous and low population density country, with an estimated population of over 6.5 million. The country had been under French rule until 1953, and then underwent a deadly civil war that rocked the country and halted its economic development. In 1975, Laos achieved stability when the war ended which then marked the beginning of Laos communist government.
Since then, market reforms have opened the country up to the world, especially to its neighboring Southeast Asian countries - Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand. Furthermore, national policies to strengthen the health system are addressing expected emerging health challenges linked to rapid socio-economic development, deepened regional integration and climate change.
This short guide offers a practical summary of the healthcare and insurance landscape in Lao for expats residing or traveling in the country. Read on to learn more, or click the button below to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.
Overview of Laos Healthcare System
Laos is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, and as such, the country's healthcare service struggles to provide comprehensive services to residents and visitors in the country. The country’s ongoing health issues and the standard of medical facilities vary greatly depending on location.
However, the healthcare system has shown significant improvements since the 1950s, as evidenced by the achievement of most of the country’s Millenium Development Goal targets, but has a long way to go before it reaches a standard comparable to other nations.
Low public spending
Public spending on health in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic remains low, and health service provision continues to rely on out-of-pocket spending and external financing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), less than 15% of the poor have health insurance, and unexpected health shocks are considered a main factor for individuals falling back into poverty.
Health protection schemes in Laos
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic has five social health protection schemes, all of which seek to increase the utilization of healthcare services and provide financial protection to residents.:
- State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants and their dependents,
- Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state, private enterprises, and their dependents,
- Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the self-employed,
- Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for families defined as living below the poverty line,
- Maternal and child health services in selected provinces.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) aims to achieve universal health coverage by 2025, but according to the WHO, the current health insurance programs only cover 20% of the total population.
Key concerns for the healthcare in Laos
- The government does not possess enough resources to ensure that the population has access to the healthcare services that they need. This is an issue that is readily perceived in major cities.
- The problem extends further out of the urban areas, which gets worse due to the extreme lack of primary care.
- There is no robust financial reporting system to accurately monitor the operation of health facilities and financial transactions.
Major health challenges in Laos
Laos still has many health challenges to tackle within the country as shown below:
Communicable diseases remain the most significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Laos.
- Previously a low HIV prevalence country, rates are now increasing in the population.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s) that are common in Laos include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, warts, and herpes.
- Malaria is endemic in most of Laos. According to the World Health Organization, 97% of reported cases occur in hilly, forested areas in the southern part of the country.
- Widespread poverty, lack of proper sanitation and water supply, malnutrition and poor health awareness contribute to the country’s health problems.
Spiraling drug and alcohol use
- Tobacco and alcohol-related illnesses, illicit drug use and related crimes are on a high level in Laos.
High mortality rates
- High maternal mortality and relatively high child and infant mortality rates remain despite some recent improvements.
Healthcare facilities in Laos
Laos has no facilities for major medical emergencies. The state-run hospitals and clinics are among the most basic in Southeast Asia in terms of the standards of hygiene, staff training, supplies, and equipment.
For minor to moderate conditions, including malaria, Mahosot Hospital's International Clinic in Vientiane has a decent reputation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following vaccinations for travelers to Laos. It is best to consult with a qualified general practitioner for vaccinations against common tropical diseases.
- Adult diphtheria and tetanus
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, mumps, and rubella
Medical evacuation plan
Should expats or travelers suffer from any major illness or injury, it is advised to be evacuated to the nearest adequate medical facility, which, in most cases, would mean evacuation to Thailand, Vietnam or major foreign cities like Bangkok to receive emergency treatment.
For medical emergencies to neighboring Thailand, ambulances can be arranged from nearby Nong Khai or Udon Thani in Northeast Thailand. Nong Khai Wattana General Hospital in Nong Khai is the closest. The better Aek Udon Hospital in Udon Thani is an hour further from the border by road.
How to find the best health insurance for foreign residents and travelers
With extensive years of experience throughout the world, Pacific Prime can assist you with any health insurance needs in Laos. Leveraging our close relationships with major international insurers, we offer professional advice and free plan comparisons to our clients.
No matter what your budget is, or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can match you with a policy that best fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, medical emergency transportation, inpatient services, and many more aspects. For international students in search of health insurance or travel insurance, Pacific Prime is the go-to insurance intermediary for the best impartial advice and comparison.
Please contact us today for a free consultation.