Expatriate health insurance in Vanuatu

Destination Vanuatu
>Medical evacuation experts from Port-Vila for our numerous policyholders in the area
>Personal support
>Coverage extended to NC, AUS, NZ or more

Finding the best health insurance in Vanuatu

As the healthcare offerings in Vanuatu are very limited, you’ll need to be able to get medical treatment in Caledonia or Australia. Thanks to our experience in the Pacific Islands, we can offer expatriate health insurance with efficient evacuation services and plans with no time limit.


Key figures for health insurance
in Vanuatu

Key figures for health insurance in Vanuatu
Healthcare expenditure per capita and per year €132
Annual indexation of health expenses 4%
Hospitalization reimbursement rate for the Fund for French Abroad (CFE) 50%
Number of insurance companies available 15
Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 30-year-old €650
Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 50-year-old €1188

The healthcare system in Vanuatu

The local healthcare system is managed by the Ministry of Health. The last strategic health plan was established for the period 2017-2020 with four objectives: Equality, Quality, Integrity, and Efficiency.

In reality, the local healthcare system is universal, but cruelly lacking in resources. With a per capita budget of barely more than 0/year, it’s difficult to launch large investments and to keep them running.

Public health is therefore organized around a main hospital in Port Vila, and then four regional hospitals and dispensaries. All the establishments are managed by the Ministry of Health and benefit from the help of NGOs, mainly Australian, which help with investments in equipment.

Some private medical services are available on site:
Several general physicians practice in private care, two pharmacies are present in Port Vila, a few French medical auxiliaries work in the region, and the Vanuatu Private Hospital provides consultation, radiology, and biological analysis services.

The problem is not the training or competence of the health professionals, but rather the small size of the "market," which cannot provide a return on significant investments in state-of-the-art equipment.

The available local healthcare is supplemented from time to time by specialists who come once or twice a year for one or two week sessions. These are mainly physicians from New Caledonia and Australia.

It is easy to understand why expatriates tend to prefer care outside Vanuatu, and that emergency medical evacuation services are essential. The preferred destinations are then Australia and New Caledonia.

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Best rates for health insurance and evacuation from Port-Vila

Care outside Vanuatu

New Caledonia

"Le Caillou" offers quality care for most specialties. You can easily make appointments with specialists or for medical imaging or biological tests.

Hospital stays can be done at the Centre Hospitalier Territorial Gaston-Bourret or at the Kuindo Magnin private clinic. In both cases, the facilities are modern and the staff very competent. However, some specialties are not available locally due to the size of the territory. For those you need to turn to Australia. These include: care for burn victims, certain cardiac or neurological surgeries, PET scans, and certain oncology treatments.

Attention French citizen living in Vanuatu long term: The 1982 convention on medical evacuations does not allow French people living in Vanuatu to benefit from free evacuation and care. The rules of operation are very strict and limit the convention to only those people whose resources are judged to be insufficient to cover the cost of transportation and hospitalization.

The procedure for granting this aid requires a thorough personal investigation, which cannot be done in an emergency. For more information, please visit the French Embassy’s page dedicated to this: https://vu.ambafrance.org/La-Convention-de-1982-sur-les-evacuations-sanitaires

Attention French people who have just arrived in Vanuatu: In Caledonia, healthcare is managed by the CAFAT, which is totally autonomous from French Social Security. An insured person is therefore considered as a "foreigner" in terms of health insurance in Caledonia. Your "Carte Vitale" will be of no use to you in Caledonia.

Australia and New Zealand

These two countries are often chosen by Vanuatu residents who need medical care. The quality of care and equipment is irreproachable, and all specialties are practiced there.

However, two things can complicate on-site care:

- Prices for non-residents are very high. Most insurers rank Australia among the 10 most expensive countries in the world for non-resident care. New Zealand is ranked a little better, but is still an expensive destination – and if you have several tests or surgeries to undergo, you’ll need to ask for quotes up front to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

- Staying in Australia or NZ is subject to a visa. The temporary tourist visas are made for...tourism. You can take advantage of this to visit a specialist or have an examination, but to receive medical care in these two countries, you must apply for an adapted visa: Medical Treatment Visa subclass 602 for Australia or Medical Treatment Visitor Visa for New Zealand.

EU citizens do not need a visa to receive treatment in New Caledonia instead.

Fiji, India, Papua New Guinea

These countries can be alternative solutions for receiving care when living in Vanuatu. In Fiji and PNG, you will find facilities for basic care at much cheaper prices than in Caledonia, Australia, or New Zealand.

India can be a solution for state-of-the-art treatments at competitive prices. The country has positioned itself since the turn of the millennium as a medical tourism destination. Prices are about 50% cheaper than in neighboring New Caledonia. See our detailed fact sheet on India. Transit can be done easily via Nadi or Port Moresby.


Our expatriate health insurance

Our local expertise

Since 2013, expatriates in Vanuatu have been asking us to find health insurance solutions adapted to the particularly complex local situation. Our expertise in this market has grown since 2018, when QBE ended its local health insurance offerings, forcing hundreds of policy holders to urgently find another insurance solution.

Based on the dramatic QBE experience, we primarily present insurance subject to French Law. This is an important technical detail, because when it comes to health insurance, the "Code des Assurances" (French Insurance Code) is the most protective law in the world for the insured:

- The insurer does not have the right to terminate an individual policy if it believes that the policy holder is becoming too costly.
- The insurer does not have the right to individually increase the rate of a policy holder who is becoming too costly.
- The insurer is not entitled to terminate all Vanuatu policies if it believes that the policy holders here as a whole are becoming too costly.
- The insurer does not have the right to terminate an individual policy once the policy holder has reached their one-year spending limit.

This is an essential point for us, because we know that, in Vanuatu, it’s a major problem if our policy holders lose their insurance just when they need it the most.

In all other expatriate contracts, the insurer has these rights, and experience shows that they will not hesitate to exercise them in one way or another.

Even if the contract specifies that renewal is possible regardless of age, the insurer, who is not subject to French law, can cancel each year. This is often buried in the contact. We invite you to read through our fact file on this.

The area of coverage

Given low local supplies of care, you will often need to seek care outside the country. The policies we present are designed for this.

All our proposals include at least New Caledonia. This means that you can get treatment in Noumea without having to ask the insurer for permission. All local medical expenses can be reimbursed, whether it be for an emergency, planned care, or regular treatment. If care is not available in Noumea (such as with major burns, complex heart surgery, neurosurgery, PET scans, certain oncology treatments), the insurer may decide to evacuate you to another country such as Australia, New Zealand, or France.

If you want the choice of being treated in Australia, New Zealand, or France for all types of care, without having to ask the insurer for authorization, it’s possible, although some insurers then ask slightly more expensive premiums.

Your expat healthcare adviser can lay out both options. If you choose an option that does not include Australia, New Zealand, or France in the coverage area, you will still be covered if you travel to these countries and need urgent care due to an unexpected illness or accident.

Medical Evacuation

This is a key point when purchasing a health insurance policy in Vanuatu.

The medical evacuation service must be able to intervene 24/7, for all medical emergencies, while knowing exactly which local service provider to use so that the evacuation to Noumea or Australia can be carried out quickly.

Our assistants have already managed several complex situations of this type in Vanuatu. The most noteworthy was the evacuation of two pregnant women to Noumea, and then to France, during the COVID pandemic. An emergency medical flight was organized from Noumea to pick up two of our policy holders, who were supposed to leave on the Air Calin flight organized by the French Embassy before it was canceled the same day following the detection of the first case of COVID in the archipelago. The insured women were able to reach Noumea and catch the continuing flight to French territory, as their stay in Noumea for medical reasons was forbidden by the local authorities.

More generally, during normal periods, evacuations to New Caledonia, Australia, or New Zealand are carried out according to the availability of flights and the care provided on site.

If there is a need to charter a special plane, the assistants can call on Air Taxi and Air Alizé, depending on the case.

Reimbursement of medical expenses

Our online comparison tool lets you compare the prices of more than 200 plans from about 15 insurance companies in just two minutes. You choose the benefits and the level of coverage you want and immediately get your rates.

For Vanuatu and the countries in which you may receive medical care (NC, AUS, NZ, France, etc.) the minimum coverage you need is hospitalization. This covers any type of hospitalization, whether urgent or not, as well as outpatient care received in hospitals, such as oncology treatments. Coupled with evacuation, it is the minimum essential coverage needed to prevent an illness or injury from escalating rapidly.

You can complement this plan with a Routine Medical plan. It includes the costs of general practitioners and specialists, biological analyses, medical imaging, pharmacy costs, physiotherapy, nursing, etc. As sophisticated drugs can be expensive, this coverage can be vital when a chronic illness occurs. Without it, care is often impossible to afford.

If you are planning to have a baby, there are options for covering both the pregnancy and the child from birth. Be careful: They all have a waiting period of at least 10 months, so it's something to think about in advance.

You can also add optical and dental packages.

If you are French or a EU citizen, you can also join the Caisse des Français de l'Etranger (CFE) – the Fund for French Nationals Abraod. It will ensure at least basic reimbursement; for example for hospitalization, 67% of expenses in Noumea, 42% of expenses in Australia or in New Zealand. You will then need complementary insurance if you want 100% reimbursement and medical-evacuation benefits.

Please note: The CFE reimbursement conditions have changed as of 01/01/20 – there is no longer 100% coverage at CHT Caston-Bourret.

International Insurance Regulations

The solutions we can offer are underwritten outside Vanuatu and cover outside Vanuatu. Local regulations allow individuals and companies to purchase offshore insurance after approval by the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu, if:

- No local insurance company offers the type of insurance sought;
- The coverage sought is not available from local insurance companies;
- Local insurance options have unreasonable terms and conditions; or
- The premium for local insurance is 20% more expensive than the equivalent offshore insurance (including VAT).

Individuals or companies wishing to obtain this approval must apply to the Reserve Bank of Vanuatu in accordance with local regulations. Before applying, you are advised to check the conditions that apply to you depending on your residency status in Vanuatu.

Picto vidéo

Long-term expatriation, the traps of local and international insurances

Other insurance solutions

Locally you will find other insurance solutions. These include:

Vancare: This policy is very similar to the old QBE policy, both in the amounts covered, with a maximum for the maximum plan of 25M vatus, and in the wording of the policy:
- The insurer can cancel the contract every year;
- The contract stops as soon as an annual limit has been reached;
- The contract ends at age 65.
A notable difference in this policy is that, for care, the insurer favors its partners based in Fiji. Even on plans covering expenses in Australia, NZ, and NC, the insurer must pre-authorize the treatment. If they refuse, reimbursement will be limited to the rates given by the insurer for equivalent care in their preferred facilities in Fiji. It is likely that the out-of-pocket expenses for the insured will be very high.

Foreign contracts: Brokers offer international contracts locally. They act as mediaries for other brokers, and they are not responsible for any problems that may arise.

The contracts presented offer at a minimum hospitalization coverage with medical evacuation. They cover outside Vanuatu, so that care can be provided in Australia, NZ, or NC. These benefits can be complemented by routine medical, vision/dental, and maternity benefits.

The benefits are quite sufficient for care in Australia, NZ, and NC.

For Vanuatu, the weakness of these contracts lies in the regulations they must follow. They do not offer a lifetime guarantee. They are annual contracts that the insurer can stop whenever they want.

Here are a couple examples of the wording they use:
"Your plan is for one year, the period of coverage. Prior to the end of any period of coverage, we will write to the policy holder to advise on what terms the plan will continue, provided this plan is still available."

"Your policy will be renewed automatically and payment taken unless you, or we in certain circumstances, choose not to renew."

This is not suitable for people who plan to live in Vanuatu indefinitely.

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