Regardless of where you are in the world, the need for some form of health cover is essential. In some countries it is offered by governments and paid for out of taxes, whilst in others; private health insurance may be required. In Thailand, up until recently, health insurance has not been mandatory except for those applying for a retirement visa. However, expat health insurance in Thailand is required for all types of long-term visa.
The cost of healthcare is increasing around the world, and Thailand can no longer be viewed as “cheap” unless you have the most trivial of conditions. Whereas in the past, expats often used to “self insure” as they believed the cost of health insurance to be unwarranted, now when asked “do you need health insurance in Thailand?” the answer would be an unequivocal “yes”. However, knowing what health insurance you should select as well as what is covered and not covered is vital.
In Thailand, even relatively minor health conditions which require hospitalisation are likely to cost upwards of THB100,000. For many this is an affordable figure, however, if that were to run into millions of baht, which it could easily do for more serious conditions, it could have catastrophic long-term financial implications for you and your family. Is this a problem that you want to cause when you are at your most vulnerable?
Expat health insurance is not travel insurance, and the distinction must be made. Travel insurance is often valid for a maximum of three months unless you have taken out a specific policy that allows an extended stay. Travel insurance covers a variety of things, such as cancellation of flights and loss of belongings although it will, almost certainly, offer some form of health cover. Health insurance is just that; it covers various health needs with different levels of cover offered.
When you are selecting expat health insurance in Bangkok, you must understand what you require. The different types of insurance are covered in more detail below, but generally, you need sufficient cover to be admitted to an international hospital. Many government hospitals, even in major cities, do not have the equipment to treat more serious medical complaints. Even in the better hospitals, you are likely to be placed in a ward or share a room with others. Wouldn’t you prefer to be in a private room, where your family can visit and perhaps even stay?
It is essential that you appreciate that pre-existing conditions, either known or otherwise, are likely to be excluded from any policy. Policies are usually passed to the underwriters at the time of claim when a greater check of your medical records will take place. Giving false or misleading information at the time of application is likely to invalidate your insurance and could even lead to financial repercussions. If you are unsure what to include, we would always recommend seeking advice from a professional. Please speak to a member of our team who will be happy to assist you
There are several different forms of expat health insurance in Thailand available, and finding an appropriate policy is critical. Age, your current state of health and your financial position will all have some bearing on the policy you select. However, choosing the right amount of cover should be a priority with many group schemes offered by some well-meaning organisations often offering minimal levels of cover, leaving you liable for the difference.
The most common types of insurance and the key aspects are explained below:
Inpatient only cover will cover you if you are admitted to the hospital overnight. It will cover the cost of a room up to a specified amount, doctors, nurses and clinician’s fees as well as some tests. Medication which you receive while in the hospital is also likely to be covered, but anything that you take home as well as follow-up treatment is unlikely to be included. Different policies may have different exclusions, so always read the small print and get appropriate advice.
Comprehensive cover is as the name would suggest, comprehensive. It will cover you for inpatient and outpatient treatment as well as any medication (although exclusions may apply). Assuming you have no pre-existing conditions, all treatment up to your maximum level of cover for each area will be covered. Usually, dental care and maternity care can also be added as optional extras, although there will be limitations in place when the policy commences.
Many insurance companies offer a deductible or excess where you will pay the first certain amount of your claim, for example, THB25,000. It will significantly reduce the cost of your policy, although it is advisable to check if this meets with the current visa requirements.
Some health insurance policies in Bangkok, especially those which are offered by local providers require the policyholder to pay for their treatment first and then claim back the expenses. With costs potentially running into hundreds of thousands of baht, this can cause significant stress with many families unable to raise this amount of money quickly. The more reputable companies will pre-authorise treatment, and the hospitals will claim the costs back directly from the insurance provider.
When considering expat health insurance in Thailand, you will need to decide whether you purchase a local policy or go to a company which specialises in insurance for expats in Thailand. Both options have their strengths and weaknesses, but when making like-for-like comparisons, you should focus more on the levels of cover that are offered as well as if you have to pay first and claim back the expenses or if the insurer deals directly with the hospital.
There are several local providers of health insurance, including the major banks, well-known international insurance companies and even the hospitals themselves. Naturally, the policies are designed more locals with cheaper premiums but far lower levels of cover with an assumption that Thais will go to local hospitals and not be subject to dual-pricing. As such, you need to be careful that you have enough cover, with often comparable levels of cover costing similar to that offered by specialist expat insurance brokers.
Expat health insurance is designed specifically expats and, as such ticks most of the boxes for foreigners. You will have access to the best hospitals, and the cover will be comfortably enough for almost all medical conditions. It is often offered by foreigners so you can ask questions about the policy and be comfortable that you are getting the right policy for you. Most policies are underwritten by some of the world’s largest insurers so you will have very few concerns about genuine claims.