Vietnam Social Security Advances Universal Healthcare Access

11:18:50 AM | 6/25/2024

In accordance with Directive 38-CT/TW issued on September 7, 2009 by the Central Party Secretariat to advance health insurance in the new context (Directive 38), Vietnam Social Security (VSS) has overseen the effective execution of health insurance policies. As a result, from 2009 to 2024, insurance coverage has shown consistent annual growth, nearing the objective of universal health insurance. Policyholder interests are safeguarded, supported by progressively refined procedures aimed at maximizing convenience and satisfaction.

VSS General Director Nguyen The Manh presides over the conference on Directive 38-CT/TW

Approaching universal health insurance goals

As one of the main pillars of the social security system, the entire political system from central to local levels has strongly joined to effectively carry out health insurance policies. Up to now, provinces and cities have established steering committees responsible for implementing health insurance policies, led by the Chairpersons of the Provincial People's Committees. The social insurance and health insurance collection service system continues to be expanded, with collection points and collection staff arranged in each village, hamlet and group residential unit.

Tasked with overseeing health insurance agencies, VSS has closely monitored current developments under the guidance and direction of the Government and the Prime Minister. It has proactively collaborated with central and local agencies to swiftly implement effective and decisive solutions in a consistent manner.

As a result, health insurance policyholders have steadily increased year after year despite economic difficulties, with more challenges than advantages. In 2008, the country had 39.7 million health insurance policyholders and the insurance coverage reached 46.1% of the population. In 2009, after Directive 38 took effect, over 50 million people nationwide joined health insurance (an increase of over 10 million people compared to 2008) and the health insurance coverage reached 58.2% of the population. In 2023 alone, the country had over 93.6 million health insurance policyholders, an increase of 2.3 times from 2008, when there was no Directive 38, and the health insurance coverage reached 93.35% of the population, 0.15% higher than the target stated in Resolution 01/NQ-CP of the Government.

Specially, household health insurance policyholders soared impressively, from 3.76 million policyholders in 2009 to 24.89 million policyholders in 2023, a 6.6-fold increase from 2009.

Maintaining the pace of health insurance development amid existing hard livelihoods of policyholders has reaffirmed the steadfastness and determination of the entire political system in general and Vietnam's social security sector in particular in effectively implementing the roadmap for universal health insurance. This demonstrates both the political task and the responsibility of the sector in ensuring social security and people's health care in the new context.

With the perspective that "People and businesses are the subjects and centers of service", Vietnam's social security sector always strives to ensure full, timely, and lawful rights and interests of policyholders and beneficiaries of health insurance. The number of insured people going for medical treatment has increased rapidly over the years. In 2009, the country had 88.64 million medical examinations and treatments covered by health insurance with a total cost of VND15,396 billion. Medical visits reached 130.17 million in 2015 (up 46.8% against 2009) and 167.34 million in 2020 (up 28.6% against 2015). In 2023 alone, the country had 174 million medical examinations and treatments covered by health insurance (an increase of 4% over 2020).

From 2009 to 2023, the average annual number of insured medical examinations and treatments was over 141 million (an increase of 59.5% over 2009) with an average yearly examination cost of VND66.2 trillion (up 330% over 2009).

During the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the pivotal role of health insurance policy in the social security system was increasingly demonstrated in public healthcare efforts, stabilizing people's livelihoods and reinforcing public trust in the compassionate policies of the Party and State.

Flexible and creative policy communication and advisory

As our health insurance coverage almost reaches universality, this status is not only a testament to the effort of the entire Party and the entire people, but also shows the role and responsibility of Party committees and authorities at all levels, the awareness and understanding of people, businesses and workers about the significance, value and benefits of health insurance policy. Besides, regulatory compliance has significantly improved.

To have that positive result, communication and counseling plays an important bridging role in spreading health insurance policy to the people. "Communication must always be one step ahead" is the consistent viewpoint of the entire Vietnamese social security sector, from direction and administration to action. On August 24, 2017, the VSS Party Committee issued Resolution 96-NQ/BCS on reforming and improving the quality and effect of communications on social insurance and health insurance in the new strong-changing context of information and communication on health insurance policies and laws.

Communications on health insurance policies have been deployed synchronously, strongly enhanced and professionally reformed to make both intensive and extensive progress. Communicative contents, forms, and methods have been increasingly diversified and enriched to match specific themes and regional cultural characteristics to make sure that information is easily conveyed to people and workers, easy to be understood, easy to be implemented.

In addition to close coordination with central and local agencies as well as news and press agencies to successfully organize over 1,000 conferences and workshops, issuing more than 170,000 pieces of news, articles and reportages and releasing tens of millions of publications of all kinds, VSS has promoted the power of digital media and modern media like building and operating VSS's social media channels (Fanpage and Zalo OA); effectively consulted and answered information from people through its customer care system, its VssID application - an AI-integrated digital social insurance application, on its hotline channels and its electronic information portals.

Particularly, the customer care system that works around the clock has supported, advised and answered 18,851 calls about issues regarding health insurance policy, helping the Vietnamese social security sector to speed up the transition from direct transactions to online public services. In particular, VSS has applied artificial intelligence (AI) to create a bank of 3,000 questions/answers with more than 110,000 training data and will soon operate an automatic response system that aims to improve support for people and organizations when they interact with social security agencies.

By Huong Thom, Vietnam Business Forum