Insurance in Thailand
Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine
I get a lot of questions about insurance in Thailand. We typically think of life and health and maybe auto insurance. But that’s just scratching the surface. There’s property, house, condo, accident, travel, rental, and marine insurance, just to name a few.
In fact there is even a golf insurance policy that will cover you if you are hit by an errant golf ball or, more likely on my part, if you hit someone else with your golf ball. They also pay you up to ฿10,000 if you get a hole in one, which, like most insurance benefits, I will probably never see.
For a list of insurance companies and premium costs in Thailand do a Google search “insurance Thailand” or check out the insurance forum on www.thaivisa.com, or your local Expats’ Club. In choosing an insurance company, do your homework.
The type of insurance I am most often asked about is health insurance. If you are young and have no pre-existing conditions then your premium will be a lot lower than if you are older than 60 and have high blood pressure or diabetes. Many policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions. In choosing a health insurance policy first check to see what your coverage would be and also find out what your deductible and maximum lifetime benefits would be.
If you live in Thailand for only a few months a year, as many expats do, then travel insurance might be something to look into. If you stay longer, then check out backpackers insurance. A neighbor of mine who lives here for six months a year just had his back surgery paid for (about ฿200K) by his backpackers insurance. Backpacker insurance has a longer duration while travel insurance usually runs out after only three months. They are not cheap though.
If you are in reasonably good health, another alternative is the self insurance option. In Thailand, the cost of an annual checkup at a private hospital is between
฿6,000 – ฿8,000; fixing a broken leg can reach ฿250K; triple by-pass heart surgery is around ฿450K. Government hospitals prices are usually even lower.
Because of the relatively low cost of medical care here in Thailand, many people opt to “self-insure”. They keep ฿1 to ฿2 million stashed away in an interest bearing account that they never touch except for medical necessities. If your physical health, psyche, and bank account allow for the self-insurance option then you might consider it, especially since you can make some money on interest instead of having to pay ฿10K or more per month in premiums, which is the going rate for those of us at retirement age.
I don’t make any recommendations about insurance one way or the other. Insurance is a very personal choice. Some people won’t feel comfortable unless they are under a complete umbrella of insurance protection. Others have no problem leaving themselves unprotected. So, do you need insurance? One way to answer this question is to do the “sleep test”. If you can sleep well and worry free at night, then you are probably OK. If you toss and turn, worrying about what could happen if lightening struck, or if you drove into a tuk tuk, or if a tuk tuk ran into you, or if your appendix burst, or if your golf ball whacked someone over the head, then it might be time to call your insurance agent.