US Embassy advises expats to spend every last cent on health insurance

Published:  20 May at 6 PM
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The US Embassy has issued a warning to its expats in Thailand urging them to get adequate private health insurance.

Embassies in general seem to only address the problems their expat citizens face until issues have been done to death in local media and online by disgruntled citizens with genuine grievances. This latest intervention may well win the 2019 ‘too little, too late and uninformed’ prize as, for starters, it was the US diplomatic machine which suddenly refused to guarantee its expats’ monthly incomes as required by Thai immigration. The UK, Australia and Denmark swiftly followed suit, resulting in the recent changes to visa requirements which have left a good number of their citizens in the country with no option but to leave after years of residence.

The compulsory private healthcare shock also spurred a raft of comments from panicky and disgruntled expats, especially those who have long-term illnesses and those over the age of 75 when insurance is either non-available or prohibitively expensive. The excuse given by the Thai Junta government was that too many elderly expats were leaving hospitals without paying for their treatment, an excuse roundly denied with good reason both online and in local media by expat communities all over Thailand. Other comments stated those in the so-called Retirement Visa extensions had already been forced to permanently leave half of the 800,000 baht visa requirement in a Thai bank account, a sum identical to the new, compulsory 400,000 baht in-patient insurance regulation.

Passing quickly over the embassy’s description of Thai private hospitals as ‘world class, staffed with internationally-trained doctors and offering excellent healthcare’ as well as its forgetting to mention documented instances of unnecessary tests and overcharging, the embassy advises their expat citizens on the need to plan for key expenses, especially as some private hospitals are now asking for full payment in advance, an interesting prospect for health insurance companies. The embassy is also recommending long-term care insurance and medical evacuation insurance.

According to social media outlets, it’s possible that maths isn’t the embassy's strong point, as the average US state pension stands at 45,000 baht a month, rentals can take 20,000, food another 15,000 with utilities and transportation on top. Taking an average of 70,000 baht annual healthcare insurance premium plus the remaining two insurances, there’s almost certainly nothing left except the threat of deportation at the age of 75, at which point the healthcare insurance gets cancelled. For those with existing conditions, healthcare insurance can be far more. No wonder the embassy is recommending travelling back to the USA and making use of Medicare!
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