As expats in Thailand, one area which we need to address is how will we pay our medical bills if we suddenly get sick or end up in hospital.
Most people who come to Thailand first as a tourist will have travel insurance which usually covers you for up to 90 days and can sometimes be extended. You should check the exact term of coverage with your policy provider as some policies only cover for trips of 30 days.
If you have previously had health insurance in your home country this may cover you anywhere in the world not just your home country, if this is the case then it may be beneficial for you to continue with that policy as you should have already built up a no claims discount. Typical companies which offer this type of cover are BUPA Global, AXA Global and Allianz.
If your health insurance was covered by your employer in your home country and you are planning to retire to Thailand, see if there is an option to continue paying your cover in your retirement and also check that it will cover you for international treatment.
If you are working in Thailand, your employer will usually be paying health insurance for you or at the very minimum ‘Packhan Sangkhom’ – Thai Social Security benefit which covers a certain amount of hospital bills and provides a money back option or pension when you reach the qualifying age if you have been contributing for the required amount of years. The contributions for this benefit are 50% covered by your employer with the remaining 50% deducted from your salary. Alternatively, your employer may choose to pay private insurance for their employees and in this case it is beneficial to check the amount of coverage and whether this also covers your spouse and dependants or whether you need to pay a ‘top up’ premium to get the amount of coverage you need.
Some health insurance policies have a higher excess or only cover inpatient costs, in this case it’s important to ensure that you always have enough cash standing by to cover any excess or outpatient hospital fees.
It is also wise to consider taking out an additional accident insurance which provides special coverage and sometimes loss of earnings payments in the event of an accident. With the high number of motor accidents in Thailand, this is considered a must by many expats living here.
Once you are living in Thailand, you have the choice between Thai insurance companies and international insurance companies. Thai companies often provide cheaper cover but whichever you choose is a personal preference. One thing to be sure of is that your insurance company will pay the hospital directly and you do not need to pay first and claim back from your insurance company later as this can cause considerable financial hardship at a time you need it the least. Many insurance companies will still take new members up unto the age of 70 and then cover them for life but they may not cover for existing illnesses.
Our last point is that some Thai visas now require health insurance as a mandatory renewal requirement which may be causing some stress for those people who have not yet purchased insurance.