Move towards health insurance for foreigners does not yet cover business, work or marriage visa holders and comes as Thai authorities are looking at health coverage for an ageing Thai population and the need to attract more foreigners to live in Thailand to boost the economy.
Following a cabinet decision last Tuesday to change the insurance requirements for retirement visa holders in Thailand allowing foreign health insurance policies and increasing the minimum coverage required to $100,000, it emerged that over the past 2 years, some expats over 70 have been forced to relinquish their visa status because of difficulties in obtaining local insurance coverage as required by existing regulations.
This week, government spokesperson Trisulee Traisanakul announced that the cabinet had decided to change current regulations surrounding insurance requirements for Non-Immigrant O-A retirement visa holders that were introduced in 2019.
She explained that one of the reasons for the move was that, currently, some retirees in Thailand who are over 70 years of age without prior health coverage outside the kingdom, are prohibited from purchasing health insurance on the local market as it is currently required under existing Immigration Bureau regulations.
New foreign insurance policies with coverage over $100,000 is now accepted for retirement visas
Under the proposed new plan, insurance coverage from firms outside Thailand is to be accepted provided officials are satisfied that the coverage has practical effect and covers health costs of up to $100,000.
In the event of a foreigner being still unable to purchase health coverage, then the visa applicant will be required to show evidence of rejection and as a consequence must be able to demonstrate that they are financially capable of meeting any health care costs which may arise.
The review, at this time, is made more urgent given that the elderly are most at risk from the Covid-19 virus and particular attention will be made to examining and verifying cover for the disease by officials.
Government taskforce targets more foreigners to live in Thailand including retirees attracted by the climate
At the end of March this year, it was revealed that a new task force set up by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) and Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow was working to attract more foreigners to live and work in Thailand in an effort to boost the economy towards at least 4% annual per annum growth.
It comes as Thailand’s own population ages, forcing the government to announce, in the same week, that a new national pensions scheme was being planned.
As well as attracting young entrepreneurs, the self-employed and high earning migrants to Thailand, the special unit also identified the retirement market, where Thailand has had some success, as having further potential with millions of foreigners worldwide interested in taking advantage of the kingdom’s climate, friendly environment and relatively low cost of living.
Some elderly retirees forced to give up their visa status and leave Thailand after having difficulty finding health insurance within the local market
One of the key objectives of the group, led by former J.P. Morgan boss, Mr Chayotid Kridakon, was to streamline regulations and requirements surrounding visas for foreigners.
Ms Trisulee explained, on Wednesday, that the current insurance requirements had led to several expats living in Thailand being forced out of the country as they were unable to extend their visa status.
From 2019, foreigners seeking a retirement visa needed to have a minimum cover of ฿40,000 for outpatient treatment and ฿400,000 for inpatient treatment at Thai hospitals.
This was to be purchased through local insurance companies if the visa applicant did not already have prior foreign health coverage which had not lapsed.
The problem arose when it was found that many expats over 70 were not able to negotiate any insurance cover in Thailand.
Scheme from 2019 meant now policies had to be purchased from Thai companies, this is to change
The 2019 scheme was the result of discussions between the Office of the Insurance Commission, the Thai General Insurance Association, the Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Health.
It allowed foreigners to retain existing health coverage from foreign insurance providers but also introduced regulations allowing immigration officials to rescind a visa where it was found that the health insurance required had lapsed.
The new requirement, announced in principle this week, for coverage of $100,000 or ฿3.1 million can now also be purchased from international insurance firms.
It will replace the previous requirement which stipulated that new policies had to be purchased locally.
Currently, packages can be purchased easily online with premiums ranging from ฿90,000 to ฿200,000 a year depending on the range of coverage provided.
There are cheaper options but the visa applicant must be sure that they meet the criteria that are to be put in place.
Details being drawn up by the Immigration Bureau
Following the decision by the cabinet on Tuesday, the Immigration Bureau has been tasked with drawing up detailed requirements which are to be presented to officials for review.
They will then be published in the public domain before coming into effect.
It was made clear that the insurance requirement, at this point, has not been extended to other non-immigrant visa types such as those for business or marriage.