Getting health insurance in Thailand: A complete guide

14.11.17
5 minute read
Tagged:

With its white sandy beaches and warm weather every day, Thailand embodies a tropical paradise. It’s a popular destination for tourists and expats looking for a permanent relocation. When considering traveling or moving abroad, you should consider important details like healthcare and insurance. Thailand has publicly funded medical services, but many people prefer Thailand’s private facilities. However, private care comes with higher fees.

This article will review the healthcare system and health insurance options in Thailand so that you can get affordable coverage when you're there.

What kind of healthcare system does Thailand have?

The Department of Medical Services at the Ministry of Public Health funds public health services and government hospitals. These public facilities offer good medical service, but hospitals are sometimes overcrowded, which can mean long waiting times.

If you’re moving to Thailand for work, you’ll be covered to use the public hospitals through social security payments. If you’re not working in Thailand, you’ll need to pay for medical services out-of-pocket or use private health insurance, which will grant you access to private facilities as well as public ones. The public medical sector in Thailand has four times as many hospital beds as the private sector.

Many people prefer the private hospitals because they usually have shorter waiting times. Thailand’s private hospitals offer world-class care; Bangkok is home to one of the top 10 hospitals in the world - Bumrungrad International. Many of these private hospitals like Bumrungrad International have special private wings with English speaking doctors and staff for foreigners.

If you get private medical insurance you'll most likely be given several options for deductibles, coinsurance and copays. The deductible is the amount of money the policyholder will be required to pay before insurance kicks in. Coinsurance and copays are a pre-determined percentage of costs that the policyholder must pay per treatment. Each plan is different so you should check with your insurance provider for more details.

Who needs to be covered by health insurance, by how much, and what’s actually covered?

All workers are covered by insurance in Thailand. Every employed person in the country is legally required to to contribute 5% of their monthly income into the social security scheme. Those payments help cover the public healthcare network. If you’re not working, you can pay for medical services out-of-pocket or rely on health insurance.

How long can I be uncovered by health insurance?

There’s no law on how long you can go without health insurance, but it’s recommended that you have health insurance coverage once you arrive in Thailand to avoid paying costly medical bills out-of-pocket.

Are there any penalties for not being covered by medical insurance?

There are no penalties for not being covered by medical insurance – just the risk of a larger bill than you might like.

Private or public health insurance, which should I choose?

Private insurance

Local Thai private insurance is the most common type of private insurance. These are plans that are developed particularly for the Thai market and only sold in Thailand. Most of these local plans don't have international coverage and coverage is sometimes limited compared to what you might find in other countries.

The world-class healthcare offered by private facilities is popular among tourists and expats. This has increased demand, which means that these facilities are able to set affordable private costs. Some local insurance plans offer inpatient costs of ฿2,000, or a doctor visit charge of ฿1,500.

Public insurance

If you work and pay taxes in Thailand you can use the government funded healthcare. You’ll pay 5% of your monthly income to social security taxes through your employer, of which 1.5% is directed at medical coverage. This 1.5% is matched by employers and the government. Residents who have contributed to this fund during at least 3 of the last 15 months can access free medical care at government hospitals.

International insurance

International insurance plans are popular with tourists and expats. These plans usually offer very good coverage with the perk of being able to use them in almost anywhere in the world. Some of these plans also offer dental coverage in addition to core medical coverage.

What’s the average cost of health insurance?

The average cost of private health insurance varies across companies and it depends on your age and the type of plan you choose (local, international, basic coverage, etc.). Here are some different examples for a 35-year old individual:

Insurance provider Average cost per year in Thailand
Bupa Thailand ฿600
Allianz ฿81,500
Thai Health ฿600

Another thing to think about when you’re relocating to Thailand is your money. Consider getting a TransferWise borderless multi-currency account if you have bank accounts in different currencies or you simply want to transfer to Thai baht. TransferWise will help you save on the often marked-up exchange rates of banks. With TransferWise you’ll get the mid-market rate - the one you’d find on Google. You’ll also always know how much it’ll cost you to send money, as their fees are upfront, transparent and fair. Which will take out the bothersome guessing work that comes with trying to figure out the sometimes obscure fees of banks.

How do I sign up for medical insurance?

Once you’re working in Thailand, you can access the public healthcare system through the social security office. If you want to take out private insurance you should check with providers about their application processes. Be prepared to give details about your medical history.

Another way to access local Thai insurance is through local Thai banks. Banks sometimes offer cheaper insurance than going to the insurance providers directly. Check with your local bank about options; you'll need to show a valid work visa and there will be a 30 day waiting period before you can see a doctor.

The health card

If you’re working and have met the contribution requirements for public healthcare, you’ll be issued a social insurance card that assigns you a hospital. This card will come in the post. Private insurers will also issue a health insurance card that explains their benefits and coverage. You should bring your card with you on each visit to the hospital or doctor.

Which insurance company should I choose?

If you want to get insurance from a local Thai insurer, you can use Mister Prakan to compare rates. Thai Health is a popular local insurer.

If you want to compare rates on the international insurance market you can use BrokerFish.

Some of the more popular international health insurers are:

Thailand is known for its beaches and sunshine, but it also has quality and affordable healthcare. This is a perfect mix for people looking to relocate abroad permanently or take an extended vacation. Make sure you follow this guide to help you navigate the healthcare system and insurance options in Thailand so that you can get the healthcare coverage you need.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more