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health care worries in Thailand


Thai Health insurance

In health matters, Thailand is generally less expensive than Europe. However if you do not want to do without a private clinic, a heart attack can lead to a 1 million Baht hospital invoice.

Travel health insurance policies are usually only valid for a limited amount of time, usually for the length of a holiday. Legal health insurance policies do not generally offer protection outside of Europe.

Foreigners can also arrange a Thai health insurance. You should consider whether the upper payment tariffs are sufficient to cover treatment of serious illnesses in a private hospital. There is always the danger that the insurance company cancels the policy from their side or refuses to renew the policy for clients who are older or are suffering from a cost intensive illness. In many Thai insurance contracts, it is especially pointed out that the renewal of the contract is guaranteed up to 70 years old. There is of course, the danger that the contract will not be extended once you reach this age. However, there are now Thai insurance companies e.g. NSI, which offer an extensive insurance protection with a lifelong protection warranty which do, however, incur more expensive rates.

The contracts are usually staggered according to scope of services. The insurance premium can be considerably lowered by restricting the service level, for example by restriction of the insurance cover to include only outpatient hospital visits, since the costs of outpatient treatment is relatively inexpensive in Thailand. However this method of economizing might prove to become a pitfall if a kidney problem leads to the need for permanent kidney dialysis. A return to your homeland for a holiday is usually covered in an international insurance policy. However, a stay in Canada and in the USA usually requires an supplementary premium, because of the high costs treatment costs there. The companies vary greatly from each other in the upper insurance levels. A policy which has a low level of cover might mean that you sit on the costs of treatment for serious illnesses. If necessary, this could be balanced out by using the national hospitals which are considerably less expensive. In Thai health insurance corporations, as well in many Anglo-Saxon insurance companies, it is often the case that the insurance premiums are heavily increased in the year after expensive treatment for an illness.

If you are admitted to hospital, the insurance card alone is not usually recognized complete cover of costs. The hospital must first of all ensure recovery of the costs. Rather than cash, a credit card can be quite helpful in this case. Confirmation from the insurance office that the insurance contract is actually valid, is often also accepted. Hospitals are obliged to apply life-saving measures without previous clarification of the question of cost.

The advantage of holding a Thai insurance policy is surely that the hospitals can account for all resulting costs very simply and directly with the insurer.

If you are insured by a European insurance company, the hospital will usually require an acceptance of the costs for in-patient treatment, by FAX. Dependent on the individual case, this can take a few days. In this time, the hospital will require the payment from you to cover your treatment. After receipt of the acceptance of the costs, you will of course receive a refund of the amount paid. Out-patient costs will have to be submitted by you in writing before being refunded by European companies.

When choosing an insurance company, you should therefore consider other factors than just the cost of the premium. You must consider the cancellation period, level of service along with the costs covered and how quickly they can cover the costs.

Read the conditions of insurance policies very carefully!

* Can the insurance company cancel the policy and/or reject the extension of the contract?
* What type of reputation does the insurance company have?
* Is completion of the payment problem-free (ask a hospital for their opinion)?
* Are the upper limits of the service really sufficient?
* Is the premium increase still affordable with increasing age?
* Is the contract temporary and/or limited up to a certain age?
* Is a long, unrestricted visit abroad actually insured?

Unfortunately only general pieces of advice can be given here. Please inform yourselves and read the small print very carefully. You should also inquire about the experiences of people in your "Farang circle of acquaintances”. An insurance office, who deals with international health insurance policies, might have to be found in a larger city in Thailand.

Please consider that, even in Thailand, verbal promises are in no way binding. An example of this is a newspaper report in the Farang (14/2003)"BUPA does not set older people out in the cold". This should only be taken as a piece of information. Only a written promise gives you the security of being protected in the case of an emergency.

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