General Anthropology Division
Group Flash Presentation Session
A debate about the value of health insurance is emerging in Vietnam, where policies for universal health coverage have introduced this new financial product to the population. Although many healthy working-age adults saw little use value for insurance except when facing an immediate health crisis, others countered this position by drawing on discourses of anonymous care to justify health insurance’s worth. For this latter group, money used to purchase insurance was seen as an offering that obliged the spirits to ward away illness. If it was not spent to deal with one’s own misfortunes, the premium paid was transformed into charity and viewed as a direct, yet unseen, form of care for those who were currently suffering. In this presentation, I explore the many ways that Vietnam’s new health insurance policy became a platform for practices of care and charity, where one’s individual monetary contribution allowed less-fortunate others to alleviate the uncertainties associated with rising health care costs. Health insurance helped to scale up the sentiments of care and support for one’s fellow people. Anonymous forms of care contributed to a collective and socially meaningful view of health insurance that went beyond an individual’s economic benefit.