Expats aged 50+ living in Thailand on a long-stay visa will have to buy health insurance from July onwards. Authorities are now preparing the new guidelines to enforce the rules approved by Cabinet last month. But the July start date isn’t yet ‘set in stone’.
The new regulation requires expats on the long-stay non-immigrant O-A visa to have health insurance that offers 40,000 baht coverage for hospital outpatient treatment and 400,000 baht for inpatient.
Saowapa Jongkittipong, who leads the Health Service Support Department’s International Health Division says, “We will ask the Immigration Bureau, the Foreign Ministry and the Insurance Department for additional details and implementation guidelines next week.”
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She said that once the rule is implemented, applicants for the non-immigrant O-A visa, valid for one year from the date of issue, would be required to buy health insurance.
“Current holders of this visa will have to produce proof of their health insurance for visa renewal,” she said.
According to Saowapa, this requirement is necessary because medical treatments provided to many elderly long-time foreign residents have weighed heavily on the state coffers.
Last year, foreigners incurred 305 million baht in unpaid medical bills, the year before, 346 million baht in unpaid medical bills. If categorised by the number of medical visits, statistics show about one-fifth of foreign patients did not pay their bills.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry is suggesting visa applicants purchase health insurance from one of the companies listed on www.longstay.tgia.org. The ministry has also told relevant agencies to plan how health insurance policies bought overseas will be verified.
The problem of bad debts incurred by foreigners has existed for many years.
Earlier this year, Health Service Support Department director-general Dr Nattawuth Prasertsiripong said his department had decided to establish claim centres in Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phang Nga and Surat Thani provinces to help state hospitals collect what is owed to them by foreign patients. The very fact that such centres are required reflects the severity of the problem.