The Land of Smiles has always been a top choice for ‘international retirement migration’ among expats around the world, thanks to its low cost of living and vibrant culture.
Having lived here for almost three years, I would say migrating to Thailand is hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Now with the trend of globalization, flying between countries has never been easier, which makes more people move to Thailand for their golden years.
However, a recent government policy shift has meant that foreigners residing in the country will soon have to arrange compulsory health insurance. Today, I’d like to share with you how this new policy is going to affect expats in Thailand.
But before I dig deeper into the new insurance requirement, I will first talk about the two types of long-stay visas, namely the “O-X” and the “O-A” visa, so that you’ll have a basic idea of how things work here. The two types of long-stay visa
The “O-A” long-stay visa was originally set up with the intent to allow foreigners to stay in Thailand for one year, while “O-X” is another type of long-stay visa introduced in 2016 that extended the duration of stay for senior tourists from one year to ten years.
Below is a brief summary of the details and requirements of the two visas:
Duration: One year only
Nationality: No limitations
Financial requirements: Keep 800,000 baht in the bank, or have an income certificate or property deed with an equivalent amount.
Exit and re-entry: Must apply for a multiple re-entry permit at the Immigration office.
Duration: Five years each time, for a total of ten years.
Nationality: Must be nationals and passport holders of 14 countries (Japan, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Canada and US.)
Financial requirements: A bank deposit of no less than 3 million baht in Thailand, or a bank deposit of no less than 1.8 million bahts and an annual income of no less than 1.2 million baht. The deposit must be maintained in the bank in full for at least one year, and keep at no less than 1.5 million bahts thereafter.
Exit and re-entry: Free to leave and re-enter at any time within the 5-year period.
Other requirements: Applicants, after being granted the visa, must report to the Immigration Bureau once every 90 days (online reporting service is now available for applicants to submit applications 14 to 7 days before the due date).
Other requirements include having no prior history of rejected entry into Thailand, no criminal record in Thailand and the country of the applicant’s nationality and residence, and not having prohibitive diseases such as Leprosy, Tuberculosis, Elephantiasis or the third phase of Syphilis.
Under the new law, foreigners will have to secure a legitimate Thai health insurance policy which covers their entire stay in Thailand with at least Bt 40,000 outpatient medical bill coverage and minimum Bt 400,000 in-patient medical bill coverage. However, expats who have overseas insurance policies that meet the requirement would be exempted.
Currently, there are only three listed companies which participate in this scheme, namely Navakij Insurance, Thaivivat Insurance, and The Viriyah Insurance.
The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that long-stay visa holders have adequate health protection and benefit public and private hospitals in the country.
Nonetheless, the introduction to this new rule has spurred worries especially among older and less healthy expats in Thailand as they may not be able to find an insurer that will cover their conditions; or they can’t afford the premium imposed by the insurer. But how open the market will ultimately be and the criteria for acceptable health coverage are not set in stone yet, so it will depend on the final regulations set by the government.
Meanwhile, when it comes to selecting the right policy, there are three more things you should be aware of. First, there is a waiting period of 30 days for most policies, and policyholders have to wait until the time has elapsed before they can lodge a claim.
Second, pre-existing conditions, which are the health conditions policyholders have before applying for the plan, are not covered in most cases.
Third, applicants should check whether the plan is renewable for life. If you’re dropped out of the plan in old age, you’ll have to switch to another insurer in order to stay in Thailand. But any health conditions you have developed with the previous insurer will be seen as pre-existing by the new insurer and thus excluded from coverage.
No matter whether you plan to come to Thailand or you are already living here, considering the new policy change it is high time to consider the necessity of a health insurance policy.
As mentioned before, overseas insurance policies that meet the requirement would be exempted, so you may consider taking out an international health insurance plan, which provides coverage no matter where you are in the world (though some plans may exclude the US) for the most comprehensive protection.
If you want to know more about which insurance plan you should get, talking to a broker, such as Pacific Prime Thailand, can be a great place to start. If you have anything you want to ask about travel insurance, feel free to contact me or my team!