What you need to know about mandatory health insurance for retirement in Thailand

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If you’ve always cherished that dream of retiring to a life of endless beaches, mouth-watering street food, and glorious sunsets in Thailand, it’s fair to say you’re not alone. But as you savour your bowl of Tom Yum Goong and browse those enticing property listings in Phuket, it’s important to have a quick glance at the less glamorous but equally important aspects of your plan. Yes, we’re talking about insurance – mandatory health insurance, to be precise.

If you’ve had a go at applying for the Non-Immigrant O-A visa, the ideal pick for a retiree in Thailand, you’ve surely brushed past the part about mandatory health insurance. But what is it exactly, and how does one get it? Here’s everything you need to know about mandatory health insurance for retirees in Thailand.

What are the basic requirements for a Thailand retirement visa?

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The Non-Immigration O-A visa is informally known as Thailand’s ‘retirement visa’. Targeted towards individuals aged 50 or above, this visa caters to those who wish to stay and enjoy the landscapes of Thailand for a year without engaging in any job or work-related activities. The visa can be obtained from your home country, will be valid for a year once you set foot in Thailand, and can be extended further, meeting certain financial requirements.

To qualify for this special ‘retirement visa’, you’ve got to be officially retired, usually meaning you’re 50 years old or more. There are also some money matters to sort out. You need to have at least 800,000 THB, or about 26,000 USD, sitting in a Thai bank account every year.

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If you don’t fancy going down that road, there’s another option available. You can instead show you’re getting a monthly income of at least 65,000 THB, roughly 2,100 USD. But remember, this money must also go into a Thai account because that’s the only way the Thai government will accept it. It’s important to note that this monetary requirement necessitates validation on an annual basis, rather than for life, to maintain eligibility for the O-A visa.

Additionally, since 31 October 2019, applicants for the Non-Immigrant O-A visa have been subject to new mandatory health insurance regulations. Introduced as a safeguard for travellers’ health, this health insurance is now an essential requirement that forms a part of the visa application process.

What health coverage do you need to retire in Thailand?

What you need to know about mandatory health insurance for retirement in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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The Thai government needs you to have at least 40,000 THB for outpatient coverage (OPD) and a larger amount of 400,000 THB for inpatient coverage (IPD). You can get this insurance from abroad or from a local provider in Thailand; both are fine as long as they cover the right amount in Thailand.

While these are the rules, the Thai government does suggest you get more than just the bare minimum insurance coverage. And wherever possible, pick an insurance plan that pays upfront for medical costs. That way, you won’t have to dip into your pocket when you’re unwell, which could be tough, especially when healthcare services are stretched.

Finally, make sure your insurance covers you for the whole time you’re spending your retirement in Thailand. So, if you’re planning to be there for a year, you’ll need a one-year plan. Though not always needed, having an insurance plan that’s approved by the Thai General Insurance Association can also give you extra peace of mind.

What are the reasons behind mandatory health insurance?

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The Thai government introduced mandatory health insurance for those who want to spend their retirement years in Thailand for a simple reason: unpaid medical bills. Many foreign retirees in Thailand holding the O-A visa were leaving a trail of unpaid bills behind them.

In just two years, 2017 and 2018, foreign visitors skipped out on paying medical bills adding up to hundreds of millions of Thai Baht. A closer look revealed that a large chunk of these unpaid bills was due to illnesses common in people over 50, like heart disease, cancer, and type-2 diabetes. So, the issue wasn’t just about unpaid bills but also the high costs involved with treating these conditions in the long term.

To tackle this financial headache, the Thai government decided that health insurance should be a must-have for retirees. While it won’t solve the problem entirely, it’s expected to lower the number of future unpaid medical bills significantly. So essentially, this rule is there to keep the Thai healthcare system financially healthy while also making sure retirees get the medical attention they need without leaving a string of unpaid bills.

Where can you get your health insurance for a Thailand retirement visa?

What you need to know about mandatory health insurance for retirement in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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When you’re looking to secure health insurance for your Thailand retirement visa, there’s a world of choice open to you. The Thai government doesn’t tie you down to specific providers – as long as the insurer you pick meets the necessary requirements for your visa, you’re in the clear.

Several providers have curated plans approved by the Thai government. Take the Luma Long Stay Care plan, for instance. It’s tailor-made for retirees under the age of 80 and fits snugly with the visa renewal requirements. Pacific Cross is another reliable choice, offering flexible insurance plans that cater to multiple needs and budgets. Ultimately, your goal is to find a plan that offers sufficient coverage for a stress-free retirement in Thailand.

Aside from Luma and Pacific Cross, a wide range of providers also offer plans approved by the Thai government. These include Thai Health Insurance, The Viriyah, Falcon, Thaivivat, AXA, Navakij, Dhipaya, and more. You can see the full list HERE.

However, if you’d rather keep your options broad and international, you’re absolutely free to do so. As long as the overseas providers are accredited, you can seek insurance from them. Considering the wide variety on offer, you have every chance to find a policy that dovetails with your budget, coverage needs, and the length of your stay in Thailand.

Once you settle on a plan that meets the minimum requirements, you include your premium details with your visa application. It’s crucial to remember to clearly state the amounts for both Inpatient (IPD) and Outpatient (OPD) coverage in your health insurance policy. It’s a small detail, but one that can help prevent any misunderstanding with immigration officers when you’re ready to kickstart your Thai retirement adventures.

How much are the premiums?

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Health insurance premiums in Thailand can primarily depend on your health status, medical history and the amount of coverage you need. It’s sensible to contact different providers to get an estimate of the cost.

Your age is a critical factor in deciding the premium. If you’re over 50, your health insurance plan can cost more than 100,000 THB. But don’t worry. There are new plans tailored to meet visa requirements. These plans offer 400,000 THB for inpatient treatment and 40,000 THB for outpatient care, costing less than 10,000 THB a year. But remember, a high deductible of over 200,000 THB is usually part of the deal, which you must pay before insurance pays out.

Once you’re past 60, insurance premiums can rise sharply. Seeking international or regional cover escalates the cost even more. Over 70s face limited choices with premiums ranging from 69,000 to 81,000 THB, and this can double what a 65-year-old pays. Sadly, for those over 80, finding any coverage can be a challenge. Only a few insurers offer plans with premiums starting at 120,000 THB. Investing in health insurance in Thailand can be a complicated affair, so take your time to research and choose the right plan for you.

Are there any other options?

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If finding a new health insurance plan for the O-A Visa doesn’t suit you, there are still options to enjoy your retirement in Thailand.

Firstly, you could consider avoiding the O-A Visa altogether. Potentially, it can save you from the health insurance requirement, at least for now. If you hold a non-immigrant B visa, an EDU visa, or an O visa for marriage, you actually don’t need health insurance.

The Long-Term Resident LTR Visa can also be an option. The LTR Visa welcomes four groups of foreigners: wealthy global citizens, wealthier pensioners, work-from-Thailand professionals, and highly-skilled experts. This visa even lets you bring along your spouse and children under the age of 20. For wealthier pensioners aged 50 or more, you need to prove an annual pension or stable passive income of at least USD 80,000. You could also qualify with an income ranging between USD 40,000 to USD 80,000 as long as you invest USD 250,000 in Thai government bonds, foreign direct investment, Thai property, or a mix.

For those looking for a flexible option, the Thai Elite Visa may be your cup of tea. The Thai Elite Visa can come with a lifespan of 5, 10, or even 20 years, offering retirees enough time to decide if Thailand is indeed their retirement paradise. However, the price could give your wallet a workout.

That said, it’s always smart to have health insurance in place for unexpected circumstances. Also, it’s good to keep one eye on the horizon. The government may apply this health insurance rule to other long-term visas in the future.

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Cita Catellya

Cita Catellya is a journalist and writer who covers a range of topics from medical and property to leisure and tourism. Her career began as a copywriter 5 years ago, where she worked with several brands in Indonesia to help them increase their online presence. Cita writes in both English and her native Bahasa Indonesia

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