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Why Medical Insurance is a Must Have for Expats in Thailand

Health Insurance in Thailand

Photo credit: Kyle Taylor (Flickr)

If you are planning a short trip to Thailand then there are plenty of low cost travel insurances policies you can take out to cover your visit. However, if you are now a resident of Thailand, there are fewer options to choose from if you want medical cover while living abroad.

While the cost of private medical services is generally lower in Thailand when compared to the west, the cost of healthcare can quickly mount up should an unexpected need arise. For that reason it is highly recommended that the expats of Thailand take out health insurance covering the duration of their stay.

Which Health Insurance for Expats in Thailand?

There are two main types of hospital visit which can occur and they are: in-patient, which covers occasions when you are admitted to the hospital and out-patient visits which refer to a visit to your local clinic or doctor, even if you visit them at the hospital.

As accidents and emergencies usually result in an in-patient visit, it is highly recommended that your expat health insurance covers this type of visit at the least. The cost of yearly health insurance in Thailand can be around 30,000 baht (£650 / $1,000), and is a fraction of the estimated cost of a hospital visit following a road traffic accident or a heart attack, which can come to around 250,000 baht (£5,000 / $8,000). When comparing these figures, health insurance can represent great value.

As out-patient visits tend to be fairly cheap, not having such cover as part of your package might be a good way to save money on your annual premium. Although if you are a bit of a hypochondriac and like to get every little cough and cold checked out then you would probably benefit from having out-patient cover!

So Who Should you Turn to in Order to get the Cover you Need?

As there are a number of firms offering health insurance for expats in Thailand, it can be quite a laborious process to evaluate them all. Comparing packages with friends and colleagues can be misleading as even people using the same product can be charged different amounts for seemingly unknown reasons. Although comparing prices isn’t always worthwhile, it is worth talking to expats about their experiences of getting their payments for treatment refunded, or contacting the offices of their insurance companies.

Due to all the different factors that go into selecting an insurance provider and one of their packages, it isn’t really possible to make a general recommendation. For the best advice getting in touch with the major brokers in the region can give you a clearer picture of the options available to you, on a personal level.

Some reputable health insurance brokers operating in Thailand include:

Things to be aware of when shopping for a policy include:

  • Whether or not you can be a resident of Thailand when applying
  • What the maximum age of entry to the policy is
  • At what age you will no longer be covered
  • Maximum coverage:
    • Per visit
    • Per operation
    • Per day
    • Room & Board for inpatients
    • Number of visits (out and in-patient)
    • Is disclosure required of medical history or not
    • Does the insurance company have offices in Thailand
    • What types of accidents and emergencies are excluded from the package

As you can see, there a number of options to consider when evaluating a policy. While investigating all these points might seem overwhelming at times, it is far better than being left out of pocket thanks to a million baht medical bill!

Personal Experience of Health Insurance in Thailand

Bumrungrad Hospital, Bangkok

Bumrungrad International, Bangkok – Photo credit: smalljude (Flickr)

After shopping around I decided to sign up with Bupa for my medical insurance in Thailand. My package cost about 15,000 baht for a year. So far I’ve had no cause to use it since, touch wood, I’ve not had any accidents or injuries during my time in Thailand. My daughter and partner have the same package and, while my daughter hasn’t been seriously ill, we’ve made quite a few trips to the doctor with her for small things like stomach bugs and sore throats.

All of these out-patient visits have been covered, and although they would’ve only cost us 1,000 baht or so, they do all add up over time. We’ve never had to hand over any money and the amount owed was simply charged straight to Bupa. The outpatient cover we have on our policies is for 2,200 baht a day or per visit which includes medicines. This for up to a maximum of 30 visits a year which works out at about two or three visits a month. Hopefully you won’t need that many visits to the doctor during your time in Thailand!

Other amounts on our Bupa health insurance cover include:

  • Room and Board: 6,000 ฿ a day
  • Hospital Service: 100,000 ฿
  • Surgery (non-scheduled): 50,000 ฿
  • Doctor’s Visit: 1,500 ฿ a day
  • ER Accident: 10,000 ฿
  • OPD (out-patient): 2,200 ฿ a day/visit (max. 30 visits)

Although this isn’t a recommendation for Bupa health insurance, it is my personal experience with them.

Worries about the Health Service in Thailand

While Thailand has some amazing private hospitals that are more like 5 star hotels than what I am used to back home, it also has some not so great government hospitals. When fully insured, the obvious option is to visit one of the private hospitals where it is more than likely your medical insurance will cover the visit. However, should you be unlucky enough to be in an accident, and unable to communicate effectively with whomever collects you, where will you end up?

Scare stories of expats being taken to an unstaffed and under supplied government hospital, despite holding full health insurance crop up from time to time. These tales are usually accompanied by grim details of nights spent in crowded wards with no pain relief and procedures carried out without aesthetic. While not being moved to a private hospital until possession of health insurance could be established. With this in mind it does beg the question: how does one make it clear they are insured and what is your choice of hospital should you be unable to communicate this after being injured?

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