There is no NHS in Thailand, so why run the risk of not having health insurance?

When travelling to a tropical holiday destination such as Pattaya, most tourists consider and acquire travel insurance that cover both sudden illness needing treatment and accidents. However, many expatriates living in Pattaya do not have health insurance or accident cover. In particular those expats of a working age are generally not covered unless their company provides health insurance. Retired expats tend to have budgeted for healthcare whereas a guy or lady in their 20’s or 30’s only earning enough money to get by will probably not even have considered such insurance. Thailand has health care cover for Thai people, but Thais need to register with a local Government hospital. Those that work for the Government get much better cover. Foreigners are in no way covered for any type of health care and the costs incurred by any treatments will be charged to the patient. If a foreigner falls seriously ill or has an accident they will be taken to the nearest hospital, where they will receive emergency treatment if required. In the event of a non- life threatening illness or injury you will you need to prove you can pay for your treatment at a private hospital or you will be transferred to a Government hospital. (Foreigners still need to pay for treatment at a Government hospital, but it is somewhat cheaper than private care). The best hospitals in Pattaya are private. It costs at least 15,000 Baht for the ambulance trip to a reputable private hospital and treatment as an in-patient can easily run up a bill of several hundred thousand Baht. This can all be covered in a decent Health insurance policy – At least one Pattaya private hospital, however, does not accept certain insurance policies and won’t treat you for non-life threatening illness or injury until you pay 70% of the initial treatment costs up front! So it pays to ask the insurers and the local hospitals about this before buying a policy.

Following a brief investigation of hospital treatment costs it is highly recommended to have private health insurance (so long as you know where you can use it), so how much does it cost? A recent Bupa Platinum annual quote for a 64 year old European man for up to 5 million Baht cover per year cost just over 90,000 Baht. This also included out-patient care, hospitalisation only was 65,000 Baht. This policy also covers accidents too. Generally the younger you are the cheaper health insurance will be. This type of insurance may not cover your for existing health conditions, especially if you do not disclose such information upon application. Also you will not be covered for organ transplants or treatment for AIDS or HIV with this policy.

Many young people feel health insurance is not necessary for them or they cannot afford it, but sudden illness and accidents affect all ages. Younger people are just as likely to have a road accident for example on the local Thai roads. In the UK the NHS covers hospitalisation costs for residents of the EU and it is easy to become a little complacent when considering health cover in Thailand. The best advice is to search the forums online and read about some of the costly episodes that could have been avoided if covered by a decent health insurance policy.

All insurance companies are regulated in Thailand and many international companies offer quality health care cover.

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