Mandatory Health Insurance for Thai expats

Published 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

image.jpg

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:

imageproxy.jpg.bc50247cc9d5a3b0e5fb291c755dac24.jpg

An extension of stay based on retirement looks like this:

 rv.jpg

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.

11 Comments

  1. David Miller

    Hi Tony,

    As a 66 year old living in Roi Et, I am watching this situation. I think that by the time my next renewal comes around, Nov, the dust might have settled and there will be a clearer understanding of who is affected. I certainly hope that since I do an “extension” it won’t affect me, but only time will tell. Like some others have mentioned, I have considered a converting to a marriage visa, but that would involve getting married first. I’ve only been here about a year, and still sorting out and adjusting to life in Thailand. I will say that I am much happier here, than I was back in the US. I enjoy reading your site, and appreciate your insights on life in Thailand. Regards Dave M

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      I am sure you are right. There was a lot of early speculation from people with too much time on their hands. It will all become clear eventually and we will have to make decisions based on that. In the meantime there are too many Bun Bang Fai parties to enjoy to worry about bureaucracy 🙂

      Best to take your time finding your feet before making any major decisions. I found it took well over a year to properly settle in and there are aspects that still surprise me. It is such a change from our previous backgrounds that it’s not unexpected I guess. I am pleased to hear you are enjoying the change. I must say that I would find it VERY hard to go back to Australia and try to re-establish some sort of life there. It lacks the energy and a connection with life that I see here most days.

      Thank you for the comment. Much appreciated.

      Tony

      Reply
  2. Vlod

    Thank you Tony for this information. Sometimes get very confusing reading some articles or comments. I am switching to Marriage visa. Just lodged my application yesterday. The process takes about 3-4 weeks. My gut feeling is that in future will be easier to extend this visa and perhaps get some benefits too as to compare to Retirement visa. A lot of certified documents is required. Not mentioned a few interviews and Immigration Officers visits. Let you know if I get it by end of this month. Cheers. Vlod.

    Reply
    • Shaughan

      Hey Mate,

      We have finally had our Australian wedding recognised in Thailand, what a frustrating mess that was…. I too will be hoping to convert to a ‘marriage’ visa when we return. Will be interested how you go.

      Reply
      • Tony in Thailand

        Congratulations. It was a challenge for us too. Definitely an achievement once done. Vlod is a regular so I am sure we will hear back on how his application went and an update on the requirements for the Nan Immigration office anyway.

        Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      Thanks for that Vlod. I was going to go marriage this year but chickened out at the last moment and extended the retirement, which took all of 30 minutes. I agree with you in that a formal connection with a Thai partner may reduce future bureaucratic burdens. I will change next year for sure. It releases money from being ‘locked away’ as an added bonus. I will be interested to get your feedback on the documents you submitted and the process, as each office seems to be slightly different in their requirements. Others will be interested too I am sure such as Shaughan, who has also commented on this post.

      Thanks Vlod. You must be happy like the rest of us to see clear(ish) skies, rain and slightly cooler weather.

      Cheers mate.

      Reply
      • Vlod

        Hi Tony, just got the Marriage Visa (Supporting A Thai Wife). I lodged my application in the Nan Immigration Office. The process is not really complex or complicated.

        The documents required are:
        Copies of:
        Passport, arriving card, Non-immigrant 0 visa, Thai marriage certificate, (if married in another country – translated and certified by either Foreign Affairs Department – Chiang Mai, Bangkok or Thai Embassy in the country of origin). In my case in Canberra. Wife ID, Blue and Yellow books, current letter from the Local State confirming that you are still married, 3 passport photos, 4-5 photos being together. Note. 2 photos must be outside of your residence showing both married couple with a number of the house and another showing the house including the roof. Bank book and the letter from the Bank showing either 400,000 Baht (at least 2 months prior application or 40,000Bath transferred monthly from a country of origin Bank.

        The process also included 2 interviews. First at the Immigration Office (approximately 1.5 hours) second one at your home (approximately 2-3 hours) with 2 witness confirming your marriage status. The questions are general about your background, family and character.

        All the documents were send to Chiang Mai for approval. The process took approximately 3 weeks.

        I believe that can be some differences between the Immigration Offices around the country, but I think in general listed documents will be required.

        Hope it will help with your application next year. Let me know if you need more info. Also, you were right (noticed in most of the cases) regarding Health Insurance for expats. These new rules apply for new comers. We are OK with our current visas. This is up to an individual to have or not a Health Insurance.

        Cheers,
        Vlod

        Reply
        • Tony in Thailand

          Thank you very much for that up to date detail Vlod. As always it sounds that if you do your research, arrive prepared and go with the flow you end up with the required result. I will transfer this info to one of the visa blog posts for other to follow.

          Cheers.

          Tony

          Reply
  3. Shaughan

    Ahhh… Pictures can say a thousand words…

    I have been doing the visa thing every year… Now I understand it is not a visa, it’s an extension…The penny has dropped !

    Thanks for sharing mate.

    Reply
    • Tony in Thailand

      It’s one of those things the online perfectionists get all worked up about. They like everything to be called exactly as it is. I don’t care but in some situations it can be helpful to understand what category of the visa process you fall into so as to assess issues like this medical insurance situation.

      I am glad that’s been cleared up and you too can now correct less informed farang 🙂

      Cheers.

      Reply
    • Vlod

      Indeed. Cooler weather and the rain. I am not sure I will like the rain that much by end of raining season. I will let you know the process and documents requirement after I got the visa. Hope by end of next month.

      Also, just a quick question. I believe you have a yellow book. I have too. Is your house registered on Gaun name or both? Just have a discussion with Bu and we have different opinions.

      Cheers,
      Vlod

      Reply

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