Insurance is one of those subjects that seems to get people talking in Thailand. After all, it’s something which everyone should have. However, many people are either drastically underinsured or do not have insurance in place at all. There are many medical insurance misconceptions in Thailand, some of which we will examine here.
Healthcare in Thailand is cheap. Some people believe that healthcare in Thailand is cheap as the only experience they have had of the Thai medical system is when they go to the hospital for a minor ailment. Indeed for minor issues the bills are very affordable which can lull one into a false sense of security. However, if you are involved in a road traffic accident, or get cancer, then costs very quickly escalate as you will be admitted. You will then need to pay for room costs, nursing fees, doctor fees, medicine fees and so on. Very quickly costs escalate, and before long bills will run to amounts which will leave a large hole burning in your pockets.
I’ll fly back home if I get sick. This is a very common reason why people under-insure in Thailand and a reason why many people end up having to foot huge medical bills here. To fly to any destination you have to be ‘fit to fly’. If you have been admitted to hospital, a doctor will need to sign you off as being ‘fit to fly’ before you are allowed onto an aircraft. There are numerous conditions which would mean you can not fly, and therefore would need to stay in Thailand in hospital where you will incur inpatient costs. Inpatient costs for serious conditions can run into the millions of THB. For more information on flying with medical conditions we recommend you check out the following link: http://patient.info/doctor/flying-with-medical-conditions
A local Thai Hospital will suffice. Local Hospitals in Thailand serve a purpose, but they are not the kind of place a seriously sick expat would want to spend a lot of time in. Firstly, outside of Bangkok the standard of English of the nurses and doctors is likely to be poor, meaning that even basic communicating will be a problem. Secondly there are long queues, and thirdly beds are situated in crowded wards where cleanliness can be questioned. The best place for a sick expat to be is in one of the numerous international hospitals where standards are on par with, or better than, medical establishments in the US and Europe.
Insurance is expensive. If you were to ask a person who has just had their inpatient medical bills covered by an insurer this question, the chances are they will say health insurance is a necessary and worthwhile investment. For the majority of people, we are fortunate enough to not need major costly medical interventions. Because we have not experienced the potential major ‘up-side’ of insurance we are more likely to question the amounts we spend annually on insurance. It’s important to take a step back and to remember that by buying an insurance policy, the company is shouldering that risk for us. Is there a price for peace of mind? That’s for you to decide personally. Health insurance can become expensive as you get into the 60+ age band.
The hospitals or insurer will help me out. Make no mistake about it, hospitals in Thailand are businesses. They are not here to help anyone out unless you are paying. As soon as you are admitted into a Thai hospital, you will either be required to provide a credit card which will cover the cost of treatment, or your insurer will need to provide a letter of payment guarantee for your stay. If you can’t prove you can foot the bills, you will not get treated. Pure and simple. The same applies to your coverage. As soon as the limits on your policy are reached, you will be responsible to find the remainder. The insurer will not decide to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. This is why it is crucial you purchase adequate coverage while you live in Thailand.