Medical Insurance Options for an American Expat in Thailand

Medical insurance inside and outside of the USA has become a tough issue.  The current system of medical insurance in the US is not satisfactory, and the Obama care mandatory medical insurance system (and punishment for non-participation) that is coming doesn’t seem to be satisfactory either.  Medical costs in the US are through the roof, and many say the level of care by American medical providers has fallen to very low standards.  Maybe the whole mess of the American medical system is one of the reasons one might have for escaping the country entirely and moving to Thailand.  But once you are here, what next?

As an Expat, you are still going to be faced with the prospect of sometimes needing medical care.  If we were all so wealthy that we didn’t have to think about the expense, it would be perfect, but 99% of us still ponder how we are going to handle things if (when?) we get deathly ill with some cancer or fall off the back of a motorcycle and need immediate expensive care.  A reasonable person will have these thoughts in the back of their mind always, and we all know it is better to do something to prevent problems before we actually must have help.  So medical insurance is important, and every Expat had better give a lot of thought to it while they are still walking around and healthy.

As an American, you have some basic options with medical insurance coverage while living in Thailand:

Option #1 - You may have existing private American medical insurance that covers you in Thailand.  But if you are making the monthly premiums based on the cost of medical services in the US, you are likely paying far too much.  A monthly premium on a private US medical insurance policy may be what the costs are for a year for a policy good only within Thailand.

Option #2 – You may have Medicare — but that is not usable in Thailand (and that’s unfortunate, because Medicare could save billions if they shipped their recipients over to Thailand for treatment).    Or you may have Veterans Admin insurance or some other plan from another government agency.  If you want to use these, be ready to take a quick flight back home.

Option #3 – You can be prepared to pay everything out of pocket, which in Thailand is not such a crazy prospect (only the super- rich would think to do that back in America).  Costs for decent (or better) medical care in Thailand is about 10%-15% of the costs in the US.  But even this small percentage can be a lot of money if it is a serious problem.

Option #4 - You can get complete medical insurance from a Thai insurance company, but the policies are different from the ones back home.  Before you do this, you have to learn much about the insurance products offered and the companies backing them.

Option #5 – You can get partially covered with Accident Insurance (not covering illnesses), and be self-insured for the rest, and be prepared to fly back home for Medicare (or VA or what-have-you) to handle major illnesses.

Understand that if you sit on your hands and do nothing, your medical care will default to Option 3, paying for care out of your own wallet.  And if you don’t have enough money to do that, you end up with a big problem.  Being in a foreign country, there is no safety net here for you.  You have to take care of things yourself.

The best option?  Option #4, getting a good insurance policy in Thailand.  That’s not always possible however, as Thai companies are more free than American companies to design policies around them making a profit, as opposed to altruistic purposes.  If you are a bit too old (age 60+), have a bad medical history, or fall into some high risk demographics, you may find Thai insurance policies are restrictive, or simply unavailable.

Here are some of medical insurance companies available to expats with links:

1.  AIA Thailand

2.  Global Surance

3.  Premier International Healthcare

4.  BUPA Thailand

5.  Expat Medical Insurance

My personal medical insurance option?  Option #5, with Thai accident insurance (easy to find and reasonably priced) plus being ready to take a flight home if (when?) the big one hits.  I personally am unable to get regular Thai medical insurance (a bad medical history and getting up there in age).  Not my favorite option, but the one open to me.

For Those Looking for International Health Insurance programs designed for Expats, you should check out this website:  http://www.expatmedicare.com/

Which option for you?  That’s a decision you have to make, and being here in an exotic foreign country, no one else can help you make that decision.  So you best start doing some homework now.  It is not in your best interest to wait until you are lying in that hospital bed to start giving this some serious thought.

For sure, no matter how healthy you feel and truly are, there will be a time when you will need major medical help.  If you are super healthy and live the great healthy lifestyle, you can delay that time further than your beer drinking, overweight and lazy buddies, but it will still only be a matter of time.  That is, unfortunately, how we were designed.  Even the best of us will fall apart eventually.

Here is a good first step:  Pick up this book written by fellow Expat Godfree Roberts.  He covers many of the details about getting medical insurance in Thailand, and the kinds of care and costs you should expect.  For less than five bucks, this is great reference material for working out a plan for you.

Medical Insurance in Thailand by Godfree Roberts

Retired expats often worry about about giving up the certainty of their national health programs when they move to Thailand. Worry no more!

We’ve just completed the first comprehensive report on medical insurance in Thailand: 40 pages of information cleverly titled “Medical Insurance in Thailand”. Here’s the Table of Contents:

1. NO INSURANCE
2. SELF- INSURANCE
3. GET HEALTHY
4. GO MINIMAL
5. GET A JOB
6. NORMAL HEALTH INSURANCE
7. TRAVEL INSURANCE
8. THAI INSURANCE COMPANIES
9. HOSPITALS IN THAILAND
10. THE HOSPITAL HIERARCHY
11. REAL HOSPITAL COSTS
12. APPLYING FOR INSURANCE
13. INSURANCE COMPANY CONTACTS
14. THAILAND’S HOSPITALS
15. IF YOU HAVE A ROAD ACCIDENT
16. QUESTIONS FOR YOUR BROKER:
17. HEALTH FACTORS

It’s got stories and suggestions, news about health care in Thailand (for example, you’re automatically covered–anywhere in Thailand–if you’re injured in an automobile accident). Nice to know, eh?

 

You can purchase this ebook from Amazon, here is the link:

Other Expats:  Please share how you handle the matter of medical insurance in Thailand.  We are all looking for the same good protection, and if we can share information, it will be useful for everyone.

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10 thoughts on “Medical Insurance Options for an American Expat in Thailand

  1. Good advice. I have hospitalization that covers me in Malaysia (where I bought this policy)and abroad, and a policy for critical illnesses. I am not sure though if there are limitations on hospitalization policy coverage considering I spend more than 80% of my time in Thailand. Option 5 could be a supplementary coverage. Thanks for making me think through this very important topic.

  2. Hi Greg,

    another timely post as I was just looking into this subject myself.

    I wanted to do as you did & just get Accident insurance.
    So I found this BUPA Accident +
    Not a bad deal at 1414 a year for 100k coverage against accidents.

    But when I went to BUPA Chiang mai today the girl told me Thai Nationals only.

    So I wondered if you would share what company you went through?

    Thank You
    Mike

  3. Option #6 – You can get complete or partial medical insurance from an EU based insurance company, one specifically designed for expats.

  4. I think not many benefits would count for the citizens of USA if at all they fly abroad to any other country as there are many laws which only provides some insurance benefits with a limited period !

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