Health insurance in Thailand
If you are moving to or visiting Thailand, you’ll want to know the ins and outs of Thailand’s healthcare system, and whether it is worth securing a Thailand health insurance plan. Wondering “how much is health insurance in Thailand”? Feel free to check out our Cost of International Health Insurance Report 2020-2021 for premium trends, or click below for an instant, obligation-free quote!
The Kingdom of Thailand is located in the heart of Southeast Asia, sharing land borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. The country is home to 70 million people, with the capital Bangkok being the largest and most populous city. The majority of Thai people follow the Theravada Buddhist religion, and speak Thai (though there are regional dialects) as their native language.
With its stunning natural wonders, including beaches, mountains, and more, and rich culture, Thailand is also a hotspot for tourists. So much so that tourism is a significant contributor to the country’s GDP. There is also a large expat community, including those who work in multinational companies and international schools, as well as freelancers and digital nomads. Special visas for retirees have also attracted many pensioners to this tropical paradise.
Healthcare in Thailand
The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) oversees healthcare in Thailand, along with several other non-ministerial government agencies. The quality of healthcare is good - especially in Bangkok and other large cities. However, the quality may deteriorate considerably in rural areas. It’s also important to point out that Thailand doesn’t have a general practitioner (GP) system like some other countries, and patients can directly make appointments with doctors or specialists.
Thailand has a network of over 1,000 public hospitals. There is a social security scheme for those who are employed, including expats legally working in the country, which is funded by monthly salary deductions and entitles users to subsidized public healthcare. Users are assigned to a particular hospital.
Note: For those who are uninsured, it’s still possible to access the public healthcare sector, but they will have to pay the full bill. That being said, the cost is much lower than private healthcare.
While public hospitals offer good quality of care, they can be overcrowded and patients may face long wait times. Those who don’t speak Thai fluently may also find it hard to communicate with hospital staff as English isn’t widely spoken. What’s more, these hospitals are known to have a ‘dual-pricing system’ that sometimes charges foreigners and expats more than their local counterparts for the same treatment.
Thailand also has many private hospitals to complement its healthcare system. These hospitals have state-of-the-art facilities and comfortable amenities for patients - particularly the top-tier ones like Bumrungrad International Hospital, Bangkok Hospital, Samitivej Hospital, and attract scores of medical tourists each year. They are generally seen as providing more value for money than hospitals of comparable standards in Western countries.
Despite these private hospitals offering value for money, treatment costs can still add up and be quite heavy on the pocket. As such, it’s recommended to secure private health insurance. If going down this route, expats can opt for local insurers or international insurers, and tailor their plan to cover their needs. This includes outpatient and inpatient cover, along with riders like dental, vision, and maternity cover.
Medical emergencies in Thailand
Thailand lacks an emergency notification system as you would find in some countries. In the event of a medical emergency, you’ll have to arrange your own transport. You can call the hospital directly and request an ambulance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take note of the nearest hospitals to your house, place of work, and other areas you frequently visit, and their corresponding phone numbers.
If a medical emergency occurs when you’re in a remote location in Thailand, such as one of the smaller islands far out from the mainland, you may need to be medically evacuated by air ambulance to the nearest equipped hospital, which may be quite expensive. In such cases, having coverage for medical evacuations as part of your private health insurance plan can be a good idea.
Pharmacies in Thailand
Thailand has an abundance of pharmacies - both in cities and smaller towns. Most pharmacies are open seven days a week, though there may be reduced opening hours on Sundays. Formal prescriptions are not always required, and many people go straight to the pharmacy to get medications if they’re unwell.
While it may be possible to get certain medications like antibiotics over the counter, it’s advisable to see a doctor for medical conditions, rather than self-diagnose oneself. However, it’s important to note that hospital pharmacies are usually more expensive than independent pharmacies located outside hospitals.
Private health insurance for expats in Thailand
Some categories of visa holders in Thailand will be required to have private health insurance, such as retirees on non-immigrant OA and non-immigration O-X visas. You’re advised to check the latest health insurance requirements from your local Thai embassy or consulate, and look for a plan that meets (or exceeds) those requirements.
Not required to secure private health insurance under your visa category? It may still be worth doing so anyways as you will get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that whatever happens, you’re covered. It will enable you to access the best hospitals in Thailand without worrying about sky-high medical bills and paying out of pocket.
As an expat, you may also want to consider expat health insurance in Thailand, which are usually international health insurance plans. Whether you visit your home country or travel abroad on holiday, or even decide to relocate to another country, these types of plans offer worldwide coverage.
Pacific Prime has got you covered. Whichever Thailand health insurance plan you require, our highly-trained advisors take into account your exact needs and budget, and recommend the right plan. What’s more, they also offer localized advice and support throughout your insurance journey.