New Thai health insurance policy for foreigners in border regions only

Health insurance remains a knotty problem in Thailand. (Photo: NNT)

Press reports that a new registration scheme will help boost access to healthcare for foreign nationals and the stateless is creating confusion in expat circles. Health minister Cholnan Srikaew is launching a new scheme on January 1 2024 to assist non-Thai people and the stateless to get quicker access to public hospital coverage by a computerized registration which will take five minutes as opposed to the old system requiring weeks or months.

However, a ministry spokesman clarified that the new registration operates only in remote regions, notably the border areas with Myanmar, and is available only to nationals from neighboring countries including those stateless persons without any passport. The civil strife in Myanmar has led to a surge in both legitimate workers and refugees in Thailand’s border areas such as Mae Sot, a border-sharing Thai city. The innovation has nothing to do with foreign expats or tourists. The financial data hub of the ministry will allow hospitals to reimburse quickly the medical fees of those non-Thais who are eligible.

In separate news, the health ministry has ordered an inquiry after a Taiwanese national died after being refused significant assistance following a serious traffic accident on a journey to Bangkok. He was denied treatment, other than an initial cardiopulmonary resuscitation, by hospital staff on the grounds that the medical costs might well not be recoverable. They had suggested to volunteer rescuers that “Mr Chen”, already unconscious, be moved to a public hospital. The inquiry will focus on whether there was a breach of the regulations of the National Institute for Emergency Medicine which has sections on critical emergencies.

Most foreign tourists and expats are not currently required to have comprehensive medical treatment, although the exceptions include some retirees with a longterm (OA) visa issued by a Thai embassy, holders of the new 10-year Long Term Residence and expats with work permits who are separately categorized. Suggestions that Thailand would introduce a 300 baht entry tax on foreign arrivals to cover their medical needs have floundered. The tax still awaits introduction and will be largely used to improve tourist sites and for marketing purposes. A small proportion might be diverted to a compensation fund for foreigners who die in tragic circumstances such as unforeseen accidents.