There’s always a difference of opinion when it comes to health insurance in Thailand.
Some foreigners choose not to get, claiming the cheap costs of healthcare don’t justify the yearly expense of paying for a health insurance plan.
Others swear by it and wouldn’t let their insurance plan expire for even a day.
According to brokers, the price for health insurance in Thailand is driven up by expats picking expensive hospitals and following a not-so-healthy lifestyle.
If you speak Thai, go to local hospitals and live a healthy life, skipping health insurance altogether might work out for you.
In case you decide to forego insurance, that’s not the end of the world in Thailand.
You can keep your medical costs low while still getting good coverage.
Here are some suggestions:
Google Your Doctors
Many doctors at top-tier hospitals were trained at government hospitals and still have a contractual obligation to work there.
If you find a specialist at a top-tier hospital, you can Google them and check where else they work. This even works for surgeons.
But you might have to look up the Thai spelling of their name.
Equipment will be a bit older at government hospitals, but costs can be a fraction of what you’ pay at private hospitals.
Travel and Temporary Insurance
There are insurance companies that offer limited time coverage – anything from a few weeks to 5 years – that is available for people applying from their home countries. Unfortunately those offers have an upper age limit. Also, those companies don’t have to deal with expensive long-term care cases.
As a consequence, their pricing is a lot more attractive than for more permanent solutions. They know that in case of any severe or long-term case they could repatriate you and hand you off to the social security system in your home country.
You can always start off with a “temporary” insurance that covers repatriation and switch to a more permanent one once it runs out. This can make sense even if you plan to stay long-term as you might reconsider that in case of a severe medical issue.
Find Valuable Hospitals
You can get great and inexpensive care at private clinics at government hospitals like:
Make sure you compare prices closely. The “private” department of some government hospitals can get quite pricey as well.
Carry Credit Cards
Even though required by law, some hospitals refuse emergency care if they believe you can’t pay for your treatment.
Proving otherwise can be difficult if you’re unconscious. This is the reason you should never leave the house without some sort of ID and a credit card.
If you get admitted to the emergency room at a government hospital and don’t have the necessary funds on you to pay, don’t leave until you’ve recovered.
Hospitals are required to take in emergency cases, and more reputable ones will do that regardless if you can pay or not.
But once you leave the building their obligation ends and they can and will discharge you.
But what happens if you run out of cash?
The hospital might keep you there and bill you for the additional time until you pay what you owe them.
Unfortunately, things can get even worse.
The half-brother of a Thailand Starter Kit reader is said to have died because the hospital refused to give emergency because he didn’t have the money to pay.
Try not to buy medication from the hospital.
You can always tell the doctor you’ll need a prescription for traveling abroad and then use that to buy it from an outside pharmacy.
They won’t be happy about it, but it’ll cut your medication costs by 50% to 90%.
You might still be forced to buy some medications from the hospital, in which case you can at least ask for the minimum supply.
Then you can buy more medication from the pharmacy later on.
You can reduce your medical costs by reducing you need for medical treatment.
Aside from common sense things traffic safety, having the right vaccinations, and not missing out on regular checkups, it pays to be aware of health hazards.
Reading up on health issues in Thailand, especially in the countryside is a good way to get started.
Private hospitals are in the healthcare business to make a profit.
Yes, they help you and give you excellent care.
But they also need to make money. It’s just the way it is.
So most private hospitals mark up the cost of medication, sometimes by 400%.
You can buy medication for a lot cheaper from the pharmacy.
You have the right to decline buying medication from any hospital. In this case, ask for the list of meds you need and buy them at the pharmacy.
Public and premium clinics don’t mark up the cost of medication. But it’s best to check.
Even if you don’t consider it worthwhile to get insurance, your relatives might have to foot the bill if you have a medical emergency in Thailand.