You’re considering health insurance. You’ve decided it may be a wise choice and you’re curious about your options. Whether you’re a newcomer to Thailand and looking to get insured, or have lived here for a decade and owned a policy the entire time, there may be some aspects of the health insurance system that you’re unaware of.
Plain and simple, the policy you choose today, or in the coming months, could have a major impact on your life ten years from now. For example, if you choose a plan without a lifetime renewal guarantee, your provider could drop your policy and you may lose the ability to get coverage from any provider—anywhere in Thailand. However, if you choose the right policy, you can get outstanding coverage, equivalent to the best health insurance plans in your home country.
To help you navigate this minefield, we’ve created this guide to walk you through everything you need to know about choosing the right health insurance policy in Thailand—from understanding the pros and cons of different plans, to the questions you should ask about international coverage. Shall we begin?
There are two typical ways you can obtain health insurance coverage: through a personal policy or a policy through your employer. As you’ll soon see, there are pros and cons to both options, which vary depending on your personal circumstances.
Just like in your home country, if you choose to purchase private health insurance, you gain one major benefit: you have full control of what type of cover you receive. However, that’s not the only advantage of personal health insurance. If you obtain your own policy, you never have to worry about losing coverage because you leave your job. What’s more, you’ll have the choice to add a lifetime renewal guarantee, which ensures you can always renew your policy.
How does a lifetime renewal guarantee protect you? In Thailand, many insurance policies have the right to refuse renewing your policy or exclude conditions that developed while you were under their coverage. For example, if you are diagnosed with cancer, some insurance policies may drop your cover for the disease when your policy renews. With a lifetime renewal guarantee, such as the one offered with many LUMA plans, you’ll never have to worry about losing your coverage for any illness.
What about the disadvantages of private health insurance? The only downside is that you have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
If you’ve ever had group health insurance covered by an employer, you know there are some obvious advantages and disadvantages. A big plus is that the company pays for the policy. On the negative side, an employee does not typically have the option to customise the policy according to his or her individual needs. And if you leave your job, you’ll lose the coverage.
What about the not-so-obvious advantages to employee health insurance in Thailand? If the company you work for is large enough, you may be covered for pre-existing conditions. This is a major benefit to those who have chronic diseases or health problems.
It’s also worth noting that outpatient care (OPD) is typically included in your policy as part of your employee benefits. This, however, can be both a pro and con. If you buy a personal policy out of your own pocket, adding OPD coverage can double your monthly premium. So while it is true that business health insurance offered by your employer can save you money on outpatient care, the levels of OPD (and inpatient care (IPD) as well) are typically so low that it may not be much of a benefit. Will it be enough to cover your insurance needs? It depends on your health, age and the level of cover you’re comfortable with.
“The bottom line is, you need to ensure you or your family are covered against critical illnesses and accidents in the long term. What you should get will depend on your personal circumstances.“
For example, say you’re a short term expat residing in Thailand. You have access to a benefit package provided by your employer and a good healthcare system in your home country that fully covers you. In this case, your company health insurance plan may be enough (provided you are ok with the levels of coverage).
However, if you’re planning to be a long term resident of Thailand, you should plan for the long term to ensure you’re fully covered regardless of your employment status. In this case it will be worthwhile to purchase a second insurance policy that complements the plan you have with your company. Many companies will already offer adequate outpatient care coverage, so sometimes the only thing you’ll need to look for are essential plans, which are designed to cover the less frequent, more serious and more expensive illnesses/accidents.
Many expats will obtain private health insurance in addition to the cover offered by their employer. Doing so provides you all the advantages of both types of policies, with the only downside being the additional cost.
Here we will explore the most common health coverage plan options selected by expatriates in Thailand and what to look for in each plan option.
Health insurance plans favored by expats generally fall into the following categories:
Plans that include only inpatient cover are often referred to as an essential health insurance plan or a basic health insurance plan. These plans typically only cover expenses when you are hospitalized overnight or during the day (also known as daycare).
Inpatient cover is often labelled as ‘essential’ for good reason as any event requiring inpatient treatment will often be a cause of trauma and can potentially be very costly. You need to ensure you have good coverage to ensure you have access to the treatment you need at the facility you are comfortable with.
Coverage of inpatient only plans, or essential health insurance plans, will typically include hospital expenses such as:
Here are a few scenarios where you may be hospitalized, either overnight or as a daycare patient:
To ensure you have a good inpatient cover, ensure limits of the plan’s coverage are sufficient for:
Some people will want to be covered for all health risks – not just major ones. Because of this, some expats prefer to have plans with both inpatient and outpatient cover. Outpatient refers to medical services not requiring a stay overnight in a hospital or as a daycare. Plans with both in- and out-patient cover are often labelled as comprehensive health insurance plans.
In addition to cover for inpatient medical expenses, comprehensive health insurance plans will typically cover hospital expenses such as:
Here are a few scenarios where you may need outpatient care:
Outpatient care in Thailand is generally affordable and buying a comprehensive health insurance plan will cost more than an essential health insurance plan. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to purchase such a plan as it would be typically difficult to upgrade from an essential to a comprehensive plan with outpatient cover once you develop a new medical condition, especially a chronic condition requiring long term supervision and support. This is because health insurance companies will typically consider these problems as ‘pre-existing conditions’ and will exclude them from your policy; even if you have been with the same company.
Comprehensive insurance plans with other benefits
Many health insurance companies will offer comprehensive health insurance plus other benefits which may not necessarily be related to health risks, instead more akin to prevention, health screening and other medical services that are taken by the member’s own choosing (e.g. pregnancy).
These additional benefits may include (and the list could go on):
These benefits can sometimes be affordable without insurance. However, here are some good reasons why you may want to include these benefits in your plan:
Many of Thailand’s health insurance policies may mention that they offer worldwide coverage, however, this is often referring to medical emergencies only. If you would like to get medical treatment abroad, you may be denied coverage. For this reason, check the policy carefully to see if you will be allowed to have your treatment outside of Thailand for non-urgent medical procedures, such as a planned surgery. Below are four of the most common areas of coverage found in many insurance policies:
If you select this area of cover, you may be denied coverage outside of Thailand. Many policies do not explicitly state the area of coverage, so check with your agent or the insurance company to see if the plan’s area of coverage is local.
Regional area of cover will allow you to be covered fully within those regions, even for non-emergencies.
These plans will allow you to be fully covered worldwide with the exception of the excluded countries. The most commonly excluded country is the USA, as medical expenses there can be very costly.
Not so common in Thailand as the cost of a policy (i.e. the premiums) will be very high.
Ask yourself these questions for the upcoming year.
Disclaimer: The following medical centers are typically used by western expats in Thailand. Hospitals are listed in no particular order, and we neither endorse or recommend them. If you choose to receive medical care at any of these facilities, that is at your sole discretion, and LUMA assumes no responsibility in relation to their management of care.
When choosing the right hospital in Thailand for you, there are three factors to consider: the facility’s quality and special medical treatments offered; and the service. Below is a list of top hospitals in Thailand, broken down by region.
Central Thailand, consisting of 22 provinces, is home to many of the country’s premier medical facilities. If you’re looking for the best hospital in Bangkok, these hospitals are some of the most well known and many specifically cater to expats:
Consisting of 7 provinces, East Thailand is bordered by Cambodia to the east, Central Thailand to the west, and the gulf coast to the south.
Also known as Isaan, northeast Thailand is the country’s largest region and is home to 20 provinces. Laos borders the region to the north and east, and Cambodia borders the south. Here are some of the best known hospitals in Isaan.
Home to 9 provinces, north Thailand borders Myanmar, Laos, Isaan and Central Thailand. Here are some of the best known hospitals in Chiang Mai.
Bordering Malaysia to the south and connected to Thailand’s central region via the narrow Kra Isthmus, Southern Thailand is home to 14 provinces.
Here are some of the best known hospitals in Southern Thailand, including the top hospitals in Samui and Phuket.
Considering the health risks and growing medical expenses in Thailand, it is imperative that both Expats and Thai nationals get health insurance in Thailand, whether this is through your employer or privately. Here at Luma we have a wealth of specialists to ensure you get access to the best plan and coverage for you and your loved ones, wherever and whenever you need us. For brighter health, get in touch with our personal solution consultants.