Learn About the Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats in Laos
As a global citizen, expat, and digital nomad, traveling with a safety net is crucial. As such, traveling with medical insurance around the world is not a luxury but a necessity. Especially in Laos. If you are an expat, understanding the Laos healthcare system will help you during a medical emergency. There is a limit in healthcare facilities in the country. Hospitals in the country are far below the standards of those in Western countries. Facilities for medical emergencies are virtually non-existent. Government-run clinics and public hospitals can provide the most basic medical aid. It includes professional doctors and nurses, supplies, hygiene, and infrastructural facilities. Pharmacies are well-stocked, and the medicines sold are relatively cheaper. You don’t necessarily require a prescription to purchase drugs in pharmacies.
We advise expats traveling to Laos to obtain comprehensive international health insurance, even for their families. This way, they can ensure a comfortable stay in the country and receive top-notch health assistance anywhere in the world without breaking their bank. The CDC has more details about the healthcare setup in Laos.
Overview of Healthcare in Laos
Being one of the poorest countries of South Asia, Laos struggles to provide comprehensive healthcare services to the residents of the country and expats alike. Although the country is consistently striving to improve its healthcare system, the infrastructural facilities and equipment continue to remain outdated, and shortage of trained staff is another critical challenge. Some hospitals lack the most basic sanitation services. Health issues and the standards of medical infrastructure vary across different parts of the country. Healthcare continues to remain one of the Millennium Development Goals for the country, and it has a long way to go before it reaches a standard that can be compared to other nations.
How the Laos Healthcare System Works for Expats
From the healthcare point of view, Laos is not the best choice for expats. However, Laos still offers pharmaceutical drugs at a much cheaper rate than the cost of medicines in other countries. But Loas lacks in proper medical infrastructure. In the event of a medical emergency, residents and expats will have to travel to Thailand to receive care. As such, we strongly advise travelers and expats to opt for international health insurance policies that provide adequate coverage. Despite all the shortcomings of the medical infrastructural framework, Laos continues to be a popular destination for tourists and expats who want to lead a peaceful and stress-free life.
Public Healthcare in Laos
Health issues and the quality of medical treatment vary significantly depending upon where and how you plan to travel in Laos. Travelers often worry about contracting diseases while traveling to tropical countries. Public hospitals in the country lack the equipment to deal with modern-day diseases.
The government of Laos has separate healthcare programs for people belonging to different groups. It has Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the destitute, and free maternal and child health services in selected locations, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for the workers belonging to the informal sector, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees belonging to the public and private enterprises, and the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants. According to the WHO, the current healthcare services and insurance policies cover only 20% of the entire population. The Ministry of Health aims to achieve universal health coverage by 2025.
Private Healthcare in Laos
Despite government initiatives to ensure an urban-oriented health system, not much has been achieved. The government’s efforts to build a primary healthcare system, extend support to the rural areas, and run preventive healthcare programs have failed. It has led the private hospitals to mushroom all over the country. Under the Ministry of Health, currently, there are more than 17 private hospitals and over 1,000 private clinics in the country.
Emergency Medical Services in Laos
The standard of medical facilities and services is very limited in Laos. It does not match the expectations of Western standards. It often causes citizens and expats to seek medical care in Thailand. A Friendship Bridge that links Laos to Thailand opens at 6:00 a.m. and remains open till 10:00 p.m. In the event of a medical emergency, officials allow travelers to cross over even after 10 p.m.
Medicines and Pharmacies
Laos is, currently, in the process of relieving itself from being the Least Developed Country. However, the shortage of specialized emergency continues to hinder the progress of the healthcare system. Efficient medical emergency treatment and emergency management are critical to the industrial development that is going on in the country.
The country also faces issues such as counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The problem is prevalent throughout Southeast Asia. Expats and travelers need to purchase medicines only from the most reputable pharmacies after obtaining a proper prescription from the doctor.
Best Private International Medical Insurance Plans for Expats in Laos
People visiting the country for recreation or work are strongly recommended to purchase an international health insurance policy before coming here. But before doing so, it is mandatory to ensure that the policy covers overseas medical evacuation during a medical emergency. You can consider some of the most popular insurance plans offered in the country by global insurance companies like Cigna and Allianz International. You can also compare them with each other before choosing the most optimum solution that fits your needs.