Mandatory Health Insurance for Thai expatsPublished 21 May 2019
A big scare for some in the Thai expat community generating a lot of online speculation before the full details were truly known. Those finer details are still unclear but there has been enough clarification based on current understanding for me to replicate a very worthwhile article published by ThaiVisa for any of my readers who may have missed the topic.
Firstly for those of you who missed the whole drama, what seemed to kicked this debate off online was an article by The Nation, which I have provided below. The bit that really got people excited was the line ‘….and those wishing to renew their visa’, which applies to all of us living on visa extensions in Thailand.
I know I am telling most of you the bleeding obvious if you have an interest in the subject of Visas, and ThaiVisa covers it as well below, but here goes anyway.
You only get one long term (12 month) visa and that’s the original one that’s all very fancy in your passport. Every 12 months you only get an extension of that original visa. You don’t get a new visa. There, that’s that out of the way. The only reason I cover that aspect yet again is to give context as to why The Nation saying compulsory medical insurance might apply to expats who had reached the extension stage was so worrying.
HEALTH insurance has been made mandatory for foreigners aged 50 years and above seeking long-term stay in Thailand.
The insurance policy must offer up to Bt40,000 coverage for outpatient treatment and up to Bt400,000 for inpatient treatment.
This is one of the measures the government has introduced to ease the financial burden placed on state hospitals by foreigners, many of whom have not paid for treatment.
“The Cabinet has already approved the new rule,” Health Service Support Department director-general Nattawuth Prasert-siripong revealed yesterday.
According to Nattawuth, the new rule applies to both new applicants for the non-immigrant visa (O-A), which offers a stay of up to one year, and those wishing to renew their visa. Each renewal is valid for one year.
Overseas policies okay too
“Such health insurance is good for foreigners too,” Nattawuth said.
Foreigners can buy valid health insurance from longstay.tgia.org or if they wish to use health insurance that they bought overseas, they must ensure that the coverage amount is no less than what is required by the rule. “We are going to discuss with relevant authorities on to how to check the validity of health insurance bought from overseas,” Nattawuth said.
Asked about foreigners who cannot buy health insurance because their health risks are considered too high, Nattawuth said relevant authorities might consider requiring them to have higher deposits in bank accounts so as to make sure that they have enough to live in Thailand.
The ThaiVisa article published 15 May reads as follows:
Mandatory health insurance for foreigners aged over 50 in Thailand – why it may not affect you
On Tuesday (14 May) it was reported that foreigners aged over 50 applying for a particular visa type now need mandatory health insurance.
The new requirements, which were approved by Cabinet in April and announced by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), state that people applying or renewing (or rather re-applying for) a Non-Immigrant Visa OA now need to have health insurance from either a Thai insurance company or from a policy bought overseas.
Following the announcement, Thaivisa has been inundated with comments, messages and emails from concerned expats, many of whom mistakenly think this requirement for mandatory health insurance affects them.
The requirement for mandatory health insurance appears to only affect those applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa OA.
According to the announcement on the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) website, it does not affect anyone who stays in Thailand on an extension of stay based on retirement, which is often incorrectly referred to as a ‘retirement visa’.
Extensions of stay are not visas. Most retirees who stay in Thailand do so on an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’.
A Non-Immigrant Visa OA can only be applied for at Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate overseas.
Anyone who has a Non-Immigrant Visa OA typically applies for this at the Thai Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
An extension of stay based on retirement can only be obtained at an immigration office within Thailand.
It’s the extension of stay based on retirement which have recently been the subject of the much publicised change in the financial requirements which need to be met in order to be granted the extension.
To differentiate, a Non-Immigrant Visa OA looks like this:
An extension of stay based on retirement looks like this:
The announcement made by the Ministry of Public Health does not appear to mention ‘extensions of stay based on retirement’, only that mandatory health insurance is a requirement for those applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa OA.
To also further put this recent announcement into context, back in November 2016, the Cabinet of Thailand approved its Non-Immigrant Visa OX – which was heralded as a ‘10 year retirement visa’.
The Non-Immigrant Visa OX, which was finally launched in August 2017, was actually two 5 year visas, and was aimed at affluent retirees from 14 countries including Australia, UK, USA, France and Germany.
As well as requiring 3 million baht in a Thai bank before application, it also had a requirement for mandatory health insurance.
In fact, the website listed in the announcement on 14 May 2019 – https://longstay.tgia.org/ – is the same website that was listed when the Non-Immigrant Visa OX was launched.
When the Non-Immigrant Visa OX was launched, despite it having a requirement for mandatory health insurance and despite it being a ’10 year retirement visa’, it did not mean that those same requirements were applied to expats staying in Thailand on an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’.
That wouldn’t be the case because a Non-Immigrant Visa OX and an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’ are different things and have different requirements.
Just like a Non-Immigrant Visa OA and an ‘extension of stay based on retirement’ are different and have different requirements.
Now, it is not to say that other visa types or extensions of stay may be subject to having mandatory health insurance at some point in the future, but at this moment in time, it appears the new requirements only apply to those on Non-Immigrant Visa OA, and not extensions of stay based on retirement.
It is worth noting that while the mandatory health insurance requirements for Non-Immigrant Visa OA were approved in April, there is no information as to exactly when they will come into force or how the requirement will be implemented.
But it should be stressed that we are still awaiting clarification from Immigration regarding the interpretation and implementation of the new mandatory health insurance rules, including who exactly is affected.
Finally, if you are living in Thailand permanently, this should not deter from the fact that it is always recommended you have adequate health or medical insurance.
I will pin this topic on the blog homepage and keep it up to date with any new relevant information as I come across it.
ThaiVisa recommends Pacific Cross health insurer and includes a link to brochures outlining their medical insurance plans in the article. I have a policy with Pacific Cross and had no problems with a 70,000 baht claim for a minor surgical procedure so I also recommend you include them in a list of possibles if researching medical insurance here (I have no links with pacific Cross other than a policy). The direct link to their website (all in English thank goodness) is HERE.