When considering your health insurance options in Thailand, the best choice will often depend on your personal circumstances: whether you’re living, working or just travelling through Thailand, and whether or not you’re only there temporarily or long-term? Depending on these questions, you might be able to make use of the following options:
Travel Insurance in Thailand
A travel insurance plan may be a good choice if you’re travelling to Thailand on vacation or maybe for a short business trip. Travel insurance plans are designed to offer you short-term coverage and have to be taken out before you arrive in Thailand, although multi-trip travel policies can cover you for trips of a longer duration, even up to a few months at a time.
However, it is important to remember that travel insurance is there for medical emergencies, such as accidents or injuries. For something that would require long-term care, you may be repatriated to your home country.
Social Insurance in Thailand
Thailand has a social insurance scheme that offers a wide variety of benefits including sickness and maternity. Employees, including expats, are required to pay 5% of their monthly earnings into the social insurance system, of which slightly more than 1% goes towards sickness & maternity benefits, which includes medical care. This amount is matched both by your employer as well as by the government.
You need to have been contributing to the scheme for at least 3 months out of the 15 months prior to seeking medical treatment. Every year, you will have to register with a specific hospital where your medical care will be fully covered. You will have to pay for treatment outside of the hospital you’re registered to and it will be reimbursed based on fixed rates that can be quite low.
While there are some high quality hospitals participating in the social insurance scheme, especially in Bangkok, their popularity makes registering with them extremely competitive. In smaller provinces, you may only have one participating hospital. Depending on your assigned hospital, staff may be limited in their ability to communicate in English or other foreign languages which could be an issue for some expats.
Social insurance can definitely be a cost effective way to cover medical treatment, however you will have to contend with long lines, rushed doctors’ visits and limited medication in some cases. You may also want to take out some kind of top up insurance, as the limit on cover is currently ฿2 million.
Local Medical Insurance
Local medical insurance plans are designed by private insurance companies to provide coverage in Thailand. They offer slightly more flexibility in terms of not being limited to one hospital like you would be with social insurance, but do have much lower level of coverage than international plans. Also, private insurers often have a more substantial network of local hospitals and clinics which can be both positive in terms of direct billing, or negative in the cases where your cover is limited to in-network healthcare providers.
Since Thailand has a lower cost of medical care than many western countries, lower coverage limits are usually not an issue when using local hospitals or some of the less expensive international hospitals. However, like with hospitals you may visit on social insurance, you may encounter some communication issues depending on the staff’s level of English.
You should also be aware that local private plans often come with strict exclusions and limits on some benefits, such as a lower coverage for daily room & board costs at hospitals, or outpatient costs. Many plans only cover ฿800-2000 per doctor’s visit. Many local policies also have an exclusion on medical treatment involving motorcycle accidents, even if you’re not at fault. Local plans often only cover 50% of any motorcycle accident-related costs, or exclude them entirely.
Some local private medical plans are also experience rated, which means that your next year’s premium is based on the cost of medical treatment you received this year. So if you receive treatment for a serious illness or injury, you may see a large spike in your premium when it comes time to renew. There have also been instances where the insurance company may not renew your plan if your treatment was exceedingly expensive.
International Health Insurance
International health insurance plans tend to be a favourite among expats in Thailand as not only will you have more comprehensive coverage in Thailand, but you will also be covered if you travel abroad, even when visiting your home country.
Some of the more widely used advantages of international insurance plans are the more comprehensive coverage of serious inpatient treatments such as cancer which is fully covered under APRIL International’s MyHEALTH plan, but also offer outpatient benefits that can fully cover the cost of relatively expensive diagnostic scans and tests such as CT scans, MRIs or blood tests.
International health plans also tend to come with cover for emergency medical evacuations and repatriations in cases where you may need to be transported to a center of medical excellence while traveling abroad.
Short-Term International Health Insurance
For individuals who may only be in Thailand for a few months, especially for those on work secondments, a short-term international health insurance plan can be a better option than a travel plan as it will provide you more substantial coverage for your everyday healthcare needs such as visiting the doctor, rather than just covering emergency medical care. Also, some short-term plans may offer some degree of optional pre-existing condition coverage to cover acute episodes, such as an asthma attack.
Long-Term International Health Insurance
For many expats who live and work in Thailand, a long-term international health insurance plan is the plan of choice, as they are often guaranteed renewable and provide community rated pricing so at renewal your premiums rise based on the costs of everyone in your age bracket. This means you won't see a huge rise in your premium just because you needed medical care.
In Thailand, APRIL International’s MyHEALTH plans offer the best of both local and international health insurance plans. Our MyHEALTH plans are registered onshore in Thailand, and fully comply with Thai health insurance regulations and are eligible for the health insurance tax deduction. Being onshore in Thailand means we also have an extensive outpatient direct billing network locally, as well as throughout Asia, making your trips to the doctor’s cash- and stress-free. With advanced notice, we can also arrange for hospitals to bill us directly so you don’t have to pay for expensive surgeries and claim them back.
MyHEALTH in Thailand offers a range of options that allow you to tailor your plan to meet your healthcare and budgetary needs. We offer optional outpatient, maternity and dental/optical benefit packages that you can add to your inpatient coverage, and you can decide what level of coverage you want for each benefit to make sure you’re only paying for the coverage you and your family need.