Moving to the Land of Smiles to teach? As you’ll need to access medical care at some point, it’s best to be prepared beforehand.
Whether you fall sick, meet with an accident, or decide to have a baby, chances are you’ll be visiting a hospital at some point during your stay in Thailand. Even if your school provides you with private health insurance as an employee benefit, it’s still worth doing your own research and arming yourself with knowledge.
As I’ve lived in Thailand for many years and work for a leading, expat-focused health insurance brokerage in the country, I’ve come to understand the Thai healthcare system intimately and will share some good-to-know tips with you in today’s blog post.
Understand the differences between hospital types
There are two main types of hospital in Thailand: government hospitals and private hospitals. Even within private hospitals, there are different categories. Some are mid-tier private hospitals, while others are top-tier ones. Both government and private hospitals in Thailand provide high-quality medical care, though the prices and experience can vary significantly.
Most expat teachers who move to Thailand are unaware that they have complete freedom of choice regarding which hospital and which doctors they want to visit. For example, visiting a specialist in a top-tier private hospital for a consultation and then going to a doctor in a mid-tier private hospital for further treatment.
It should also be noted that simply going to a more expensive private hospital doesn’t mean you’ll get a better doctor. More often than not, many top specialists work at multiple hospitals of varying price ranges. If you’re really after the expertise of the doctor, it’s worth choosing the doctor first and then looking at the hospital.
Here are some key differences between government and private hospitals in Thailand:
Government hospitals such as Siriraj and Chula are aimed at providing affordable medical care to Thai nationals rather than to expat or international patients. Although these hospitals provide excellent care, they are often crowded and require patients to queue for treatment for hours on end.
The influx of patients daily means that customer service is usually not a priority, but your wallet will certainly thank you. A key advantage of government hospitals is their lower costs, which can be significantly less than what private hospitals charge. With that said, expat teachers should be aware of ‘dual pricing’ in these hospitals, which charge foreigners more than locals.
For those who prefer to avoid long wait times, the best option is to go to a private hospital.
You’ll also have more time during consultations, which is unlikely at government hospitals. In general, staff (including doctors and nurses) in private hospitals are also able to speak English and go above and beyond to ensure you have a pleasant visit.
But did you know that not all private hospitals were created equal? Some like Bangkok Christian and Mission are considered mid-tier in price and amenities, while others like Samitivej and Bumrungrad International are considered top-tier. The latter are targeted at foreigners and expats, with dedicated services like interpreters, multiple cuisines, and more.
Figure out how you’ll cover the costs
First things first, you should check whether your school offers private health insurance as an employee benefit. Although most schools do offer this, it’s best not to take it for granted. Additionally, it’s also good to know the ins and outs of your policy, what it covers and to what annual limit, and any exclusions it may have.
Once you have a better understanding of your health insurance policy, you can plan which hospitals you’ll go to and how to cover the costs of anything that isn’t covered by your policy. Start by creating an emergency healthcare fund and looking into securing additional health insurance.
Secure the right health insurance plan for your needs
Expat teachers looking to secure additional health insurance on top of the plan offered by their school can look into top-up health insurance or individual health insurance. The former seeks to cover the gaps in your existing coverage and can be a more cost-effective option, while the latter is an entirely new plan.
Depending on your needs and budget, you can also look to secure optional extras such as dental and vision coverage, maternity coverage, and more. Globetrotters may also want to consider worldwide coverage. Either way, it’s worth speaking to an expert and impartial brokerage to see what your options are.