Golden beaches at Koh Samui. A trip to the James Bond Island at Khao Phing Kan, featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Beautiful pagodas. An ever-smiling populace. These are just a few of the perks of staying in Thailand.
An emerging Asian nation with booming tourism and a growing industrial base, Thailand attracts expatriate workers by the thousands.
The standard of living in this southeast Asian nation is high; society is more liberal than Malaysia, and life is less strict than in Singapore.
But can you pack for Thailand without buying Thailand expatriate medical insurance? We explore the situation of the Thai public healthcare system.
Thailand’s Public Healthcare System – A Shining Example
Among emerging economies, Thailand’s is a welcome break from the complete anarchy found in public healthcare services elsewhere. The Thai public healthcare system is funded by the government. In 2001, the nation introduced sweeping health reforms known as the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) that covers at least 98% of the population.
If you relocate to Thailand, your medical bills would be provided for through contributions to social security. Thailand’s public hospitals are really high class. Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok consistently ranks among the top ten facilities of its kind in the world.
If you have a social security number and a corresponding UCS card, treatment is entirely free of charge on all days except Saturdays. If you do not hold a UCS card, you can still take advantage of treatment, but you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. More than 75% of the beds in the country are at public hospitals.
The quality of primary healthcare you receive depends on the local physician. They are not covered under UCS, and the cost has to be met upfront. For less severe maladies, it is often an easier way to avoid long lines and waiting times.
To consult a specialist, you do not need to be referred by a general practitioner. You can simply ask for an appointment at any public hospital.
Medications prescribed at public hospitals are free of charge. You are also free to buy medicines from private pharmacies at market prices.
Thai Public Healthcare Is Ailing
For years, the Thai public healthcare system has been lauded as one of the best in the world. But it is plagued by the same problems that most universal healthcare systems face: long wait times and too few doctors.
Although there has been no formal study, it appears from anecdotal evidence that the Thai healthcare system is beginning to show some fissures. It is mostly due to a lack of trained doctors and nurses, which leads to long waiting times. One estimate placed the ratio at one doctor per 565 persons (roughly) in Bangkok and one per 2,870 (again, roughly) in the countryside.
Thai Private Healthcare – A Robust Alternative
Like elsewhere in the world, an efficient private healthcare system has evolved here, too. These private hospitals in Thailand offer excellent healthcare with almost zero waiting time.
The coexistence of private and public healthcare has developed satisfactorily and can be leveraged by an expat when buying private health insurance. The cost of Thai private healthcare is low, and for this reason, Thailand is the main competitor to India as a medical tourism destination in the south Asian region.
Thai Expat Health Insurance – A Must-Have Backup
An expatriate health insurance plan is unavoidable if you want to work as an expat in Thailand. The fine print of most expat policies is quite hard to understand, and you need to be careful before you buy one. How should you scrutinize a policy before you pick one? We share some useful pointers.
- Not Covered Charges – Expenses at a hospital include not only bed charges, doctor’s fees, and medication, but also some items that need to be thrown away regularly. These include IV lines, syringes, molly sheets, and similar items. The cost of these is not met by some insurance companies. Of course, they are quite small and do not amount to more than 5% of the entire bill, but over the course of a lengthy hospital stay, they may add up to a considerable amount.
- Co-payment – In the world of medical insurance, co-pay is emerging as a frequent clause. It requires the patient to share between 10% and 30% of the final bill. Obviously, it is meant to prevent the client from seeking the most expensive treatments and to reduce patients’ hospital stays to the bare minimum. Take care to inspect what your share of the co-pay might be. If it is too high, look for a policy with a more suitable ratio.
- Policy Limits – Some insurance policies do not allow you access to the sum total at once. Instead, insurers prefer to provide a certain amount under various headers such as bed charges, doctors’ fees, ICU charges, etc. These are known as sub-limits. Thus, if you have a policy worth $400,000, you can, on any given day, access only a percent of it as bed charges. This varies from 1-3%, depending on the country. A higher sub-limit is not necessarily better, because it might cause you to empty out your claim faster. Research the bed charges in Thailand and select a suitable limit.
- Translation – In a non-English speaking country such as Thailand, you would need a translator to interpret the local language. It is crucial for you to understand the various test results as far as you can and evaluate your future course of action based on reliable information. This is why translation services are a highly desirable option to have as part of an insurance package.
Safety First with Expat Health Insurance
While you navigate the world of global insurance, remember to check which plans are relevant for you. Then, compare them to make sure you get adequate protection for a reasonably low price.
To work as an expat in Thailand with peace of mind, purchase a Thai expatriate medical insurance plan. Choose insurance from a provider that offers daily customer support to make sure you don’t face any unnecessary hassles when the time comes to apply for a claim.