Controversy continues over effect of compulsory health insurance for expats in Thailand

Published:  21 Oct at 6 PM
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Heartbreak looms for elderly expats in Thailand via compulsory private health insurance.

Whilst it seems the present requirement is to be mandatory for expats arriving on the O-A so-called retirement visa, and also on its annual extensions, there’s still a great deal of confusion about expat retirees whose retirement visas are of the ‘O’ type.

At present, the interpretation of official immigration announcements seems to exempt this class of visa from compulsory private health insurance, but Thailand is Thailand and things can and do change negatively in the blink of an eye. Local expatriate media and online forums are having a field day reporting numerous comments by those supposedly affected, with many saying it’s the last straw and planning to leave. Forcing all elderly expats to pay through the nose for the inadequate cover provided by Thai insurers is one thing, stopping the exodus of paying members of the expat community is another.

Many of those affected are over the age of 70 and have never been ill in their lives, with Thailand’s good weather contributing to their healthy longevity, Should the new law be expanded to cover all expats, including those married and with Thai families, the effect on the Thailand-wide expat community will be dramatic and devastating. Already, long-stay expats are posting not just their opinions but their actual experiences, very few of which seem to be positive. One letter from a Swedish expatriate resident in Phuket for nine years tells the story as it is, a harrowing description of the bleak future awaiting expats who don’t or can’t comply with the new regulations.

Friends of the Swedish ambassador to Thailand and retirees to Thailand some nine years ago, one Swedish expatriate couple are now fearing their lives in the former Land of Smiles are seriously at risk. They’d brought all their valued possessions with them when they emigrated and have improved their health as a direct result of their move to the tropics. By June next year both will be 85 years old and are expecting to be refused visas as they’re unable to pay 300,000 baht per year each for health insurance or deposit half a million baht in their individual bank accounts, the totals of which would be enough to pay for a range of overpriced private hospital treatments.

To confuse matters still further, the couple's Swedish friends who’re married to Thais are exempt from the health insurance requirements. The couple are now asking readers of the forum on which they posted to say whether their dream of a peaceful retirement in Thailand was naïve, with one forum respondent suggesting affected expats should start a class action lawsuit aimed at grandfathering all those who hold existing, valid retirement visas.
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