Maybe it's your insatiable wanderlust? Or perhaps the cheaper cost of living and warm weather lured you to move to the Land of Smiles?
Yes, it may seem to you that living in Thailand will be a panacea for your budget and adventure woes. I knew that before I moved here and I certainly found the lower cost of living and the country's close proximity to beautiful places like Vietnam and Cambodia very appealing, in addition to Thailand’s own splendor.
Having lived here for almost two years, I'm already eternally grateful to all the wonderful people I've met, as well as for all the exotic locations I've visited so far.
One thing I'd like to point out here, however, is that not everything is cheap in the Land of Smiles. Expenses can add up, especially if you get sick or injured, and need to see a private doctor. That is why I strongly recommend buying teacher's health insurance to protect yourself, your family, and your finances while you're here.
So, without further ado, here are 5 questions to ask when buying Thai health insurance.
1. Does my employer provide Thai health insurance?
Nowadays, more and more schools in Thailand only provide medical insurance to teachers that stay long-term. Many teachers I've met did not receive any health cover until they passed their one-year contract.
For new teaching staff, schools will instead provide a stipend. This could add even more stress to the new school year, as it means you will need to find a Thai health insurance plan on your own. The earlier you are aware of this, the better, as you'll have more time to find a plan that works for your needs.
2. What benefits do I need?
Anyone who's looked for health insurance will know that plans sold from different insurers can be worlds apart from each other in terms of the benefits they provide.
The cheapest plans might only cover the cost of overnight hospital care, whereas higher level health insurance plans feature benefits for things like private GP and specialist visits, and sometimes even pregnancy and dental care at the most luxurious hospitals.
Because of this, it's a good idea to jot down or at least have in mind the types of benefits you need before hunting for medical insurance. Of course, the right plan for you will depend on your healthcare needs, but in my experience expats here will usually look for a health insurance plan that comes with all or some of these features:
- Worldwide or Southeast Asia coverage
- Outpatient benefits (e.g. GP visits)
- Vaccination benefits
- Health check-up cover
- Pregnancy benefits
- Dental treatment coverage
- Benefits for pre-existing conditions
3. If I'm sick or injured in another country, will my plan cover me?
Sure, some expats who move here spend most of their time in Thailand, and rarely leave the country. However, most expats - teachers and otherwise - travel frequently in Southeast Asia or further afield.
If this is the case for you, you might want to look for Thai health insurance that not only protects you in the Land of Smiles, but also in the wider Southeast Asia region. Southeast Asia plans are very popular among expat teachers in Thailand, as it covers care both locally and in popular nearby destinations like Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, etc.
Compared to plans that come with worldwide coverage, Southeast Asia health plans are cheaper, but it's worth keeping in mind that they don't usually cover care in more expensive countries like Singapore.
4. Do I have pre-existing medical issues?
In other words, do you have any medical conditions or injuries that you currently or previously received treatment for?
Insurance companies are reluctant to cover pre-existing ailments, simply because people are far more likely to need treatment for these conditions, which poses a higher financial risk to insurers. As such, if you suffer from, say, high blood pressure, your medical insurance may exclude treatments for heart attack and stroke.
Fortunately, some insurers will allow coverage for pre-existing medical issues, but there's most likely going to be a catch. For example, you might need to pay more for your plan, or wait a certain amount of time before you can access any benefits related to such medical issues.
5. Is the insurer reliable?
In order to find the best value Thai health insurance, you're going to need to find the perfect balance between benefits and cost. It is understandably very tempting to buy the cheapest plan available, but as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for".
The cheapest plans are likely not conducive to the best benefits, or the most reliable insurer. The insurer's reputation is a very important thing to keep in mind when shopping for medical insurance, as choosing a plan from a reliable insurer can make all the difference when it comes time to deal with things like customer services and submitting claims.