The Best of Both Worlds

 |  June 29, 2011

Recently there has been a spate of illness in the expat community, and an important issue to arise from it concerns Health Insurance. Choice of health insurance depends upon economy, age, lifestyle, physical condition, and attitude towards risk.

Health insurance enables us to pay our medical bills when they fall due; it is not an alternative to preventative medicine and healthy living.

Many expats have four health insurance options which are:

Conventional Insurance

You may require four insurance policies to cover all risks relating to your physical health: health insurance, travel insurance, accident insurance, and motor insurance. Remember that insurance companies do not pay ‘naam jai’ costs which may be payable after an accident; and specific expenses may be excluded in the policy’s small print. Furthermore, the suits will not refund your time and expense of administering insurance claims.


If you have enough cash available to finance your own medical treatment you may consider forgoing the cost of health insurance. Many retirees have liquid resources of between 400,000 and 800,000 baht stagnating in a Thai bank account to satisfy Immigration’s criteria for entitlement to a Retirement Visa; and some expats use this capital to self-insure their medical expenses.

Social Investment

Retirees who invest in Social Capital – social integration in the community – occasionally choose neither Health Insurance nor Self-Insurance. Social Capitalists are valued by their local society, so when they receive a hospital bill for half a million baht, their friends adorn them with interest-free loans to settle their account. So it pays to be popular.


If your home country offers free medical treatment, you may consider returning home for a major operation. Currently British citizens are required to sign a declaration stating that they have been resident in UK for the previous twelve months prior to their operation. Recently a friend underwent brain surgery, care of UK’s National Health Service, after dealing with the no-brainer, ‘Lie or Die?’

Whatever avenue you choose, it pays to possess an insurance (credit) card, which means that your insurer guarantees payment of your hospital bills. An annual Personal Accident premium of 600 baht is sufficient to secure the coveted Insurance Card.

Please be aware that most financial advisors have vested interest in recommending the first of the above options – and they may be right – but you should know what your options are.

Philip Wylie is the author of several books, including How To Establish A Successful Business In Thailand and How To Make A Living In Paradise; and he assists writers in their quest to get their books published.