Mandatory Health Insurance in Thailand for Retirees - Do I need it?

written by Craig McAvinue, Senior Associate | Thailand

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Since the recent announcement that over 50s on Retirement Visas will now require Mandatory Health Insurance as a condition to renew their visas, brokers and insurance companies alike have been swamped with queries and questions, including myself. 

I will leave it to the various legal / visa agents to interpret the ambiguous media as to what exactly is required. 

However, looking at it from the insurers perspective, what I've heard about a requirement for THB400k of Inpatient coverage and THB40k of Outpatient triggers more questions than answers, including:

 Do policies which tick the box exist? How much are they?

 

Having THB400k of Inpatient coverage makes sense though arguably that is a bit on the low side of coverage. The rationale behind this initiative is that there have been cases where uninsured foreigners have been treated and unable to pay, leaving Thailand to foot the bill.

This being the case, the requirement for THB40k of Outpatient coverage seems unnecessary. For an insurer to price a policy which has this exact requirement they will have to consider:

1) that every applicant may well spend that THB40k...(in a sense they may feel entitled to do so after paying their premium) and 
2) initial costs I am hearing are around THB70k – THB75k  for the average retiree….

There’s no value in this when the overall cover is just over 5 times the annual premium, especially when a perfectly good Inpatient only plan with THB16m cover plus all cancer costs less than THB45k with a small deductible. 

  How can I reduce my premium? 

Speaking of deductibles, this is another question I have not seen addressed. Having THB40k outpatient coverage as a condition is in effect stating that the insured needs this in case he/ she cannot afford to pay this amount out of pocket.

However, a deductible could be viewed in the same way…so will these be allowed? If anyone has heard, please let me know.


How to save money on health insurance

 What about Pre-Existing Conditions?

As several applicants that have come my way realise, for obvious reasons the older you get the higher a risk you are.

Underwriters are increasingly risk averse so when a 60-year-old applies, he/ she may be the fittest person in Thailand but if they have a chronic condition such as Diabetes, the exclusions that an underwriter will put in place will be so pervasive it makes the insurance redundant. 

How is this going to sit with the apparent requirements? As the insurance is effectively useless and will not pay out if the applicant is hospitalized, how can the authorities accept this given that the reason for bringing in the idea is so the insurance pays the bill?   

Pre-existing Conditions

What’s the answer – no diabetics allowed on Retirement visas?   Not many people get to retirement age without ever being sick of having some form of pre-existing condition.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is another example where despite a person’s condition being well managed through diet / exercise etc – older applicants (such as the very people this applies to) will simply be excluded from all cardio vascular conditions…How will this sit with the visa requirements? Will those with Hypertension join those with Diabetes on the list of this not allowed Retirement visas?...the list can go on and on.

My Thoughts

Of course, as we sell Health Insurance we will always advise that someone should be covered. Not just because it’s my business but also its simply the right and prudent thing to do. 

 Therefore, in theory I welcome the idea about it being a mandatory requirement, though as I have pointed out above, perhaps the mechanics / clarity need refining.

In Thailand, we have a wide range of foreigners who call this home, most of whom fall into one of the below three categories:

  • Those who are retired here

  • Those working here

  • Those who work offshore but live /  keep a base here

For the first group of retirees who never had Health Insurance we have already referred to. Many are scrambling around now to make sure they are ok for their next visa. Myself along with others in the industry hope to help and find a solution although for many it is a case of “closing the gate after the horse has bolted”

For Group 2 broadly speaking they would fall into two categories:

1) Those who are self-employed or in an industry where benefits such as Health Cover are not standard
2) Those who receive Health Insurance as an employee benefit as part of their salary package

With the exception of those who may be on a short term contract in the second category and returning to a country such as the UK which has its own Government backed Healthcare, everyone should have their own policy

Even if your employer offers you coverage, ask them about receiving that benefit in cash and organising your own cover. If you are employed you will be part of a Group Plan. Once you leave that company or retire, you may find yourself in the same boat as the persons above, expensive policies possibly littered with exclusion


The Keys to Health Insurance in Thailand


·         Buy it when you are healthy so no exclusions

·         Choose carefully, utilising the help of a broker as there are many variables with providers and some policies suit one person’s requirements  better than others

·         After choosing carefully – stick with the provider so when you do get sick that condition remains covered

An argument that it is too expensive really doesn’t hold much water. A healthy 35 year old can get an excellent Inpatient policy for as little as THB1,500 a month.

At the end of the day we choose to live in Thailand because of many of its wonderful attributes. It is not the responsibility of our hosts to pay for our medical costs. Even those on modest salaries of THB100k a month, less than 2% of that would cover your healthcare costs, probably considerably less than the percentage of your salary to obtain healthcare in other countries.

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