No easy pickings for those who deliberately try to catch Covid-19 in Thailand

Insurance company cover and individual Covid-19 claims are an under-explored topic.

This week the Thai General Insurance Association (TGIA) warned people against getting themselves infected with coronavirus on purpose so that they could claim insurance. The association’s president Anon Vangvasu said the practice was not only wrongful but put their lives at risk. A Facebook source said one person had even put on an infected guy’s mask and swallowed his saliva.

The claim that there are people “that stupid” was met with an avalanche of ridicule on social media and accusations that the TGIA was spreading fake news. “If you can show me anyone in the world who flirts with death to try and cheat the insurance company, I’ll eat my hat,” wrote Pattaya blogger Keith Cable. Well, he had best get out his knife and fork.

The technical term for deliberate self-harm to try and obtain a financial reward is Munchausen Syndrome, named after an 18th century German officer who lied a lot. In pre-Covid 2016 there was a lot of international publicity about Vietnamese national Ly Thi N who cut off part of her arm and leg to try and cheat the insurance company for US$150,000. It didn’t work.

The pandemic virus knows no boundaries when it comes to inconveniencing the public.

The US-based Coalition Against Insurance Fraud says that, in the early stages of the Covid pandemic, some students tried to catch and spread the virus at booze-sodden parties because of the supposition that infected people get paid more for their antibody plasma. Others admitted willingly being infected with the virus to hasten the day when they would gain full protection whilst contributing to herd immunity.

The Coalition admits that these practices are no longer attractive as they were based on the erroneous premise that the young would never get a serious illness from the virus. Moreover, infected persons of all ages can suffer long-term consequences such as heart and lung ailments. Nonetheless, two teens who were present at an illegal pool party in Pattaya last year did tell police, “I’m young and healthy, so Covid can’t do me much harm.”

If there are any firm cases nowadays in Thailand of people actually trying to catch the virus, the root cause is most likely depression or trauma created by the loss of unemployment. The British Medical Journal, amongst many others, has published research that self-harm or suicide are often a cry for help in a time of hopelessness. Coronavirus has dramatically increased that phenomenon all over the world.

However, a Pattaya insurance agent told Pattaya Mail that he doubted whether a Covid-19 claim based on self-harm would be successful. He pointed out that Covid-related payouts would go to the hospital for treatment and would not be cash payments to the insured or his/her family. “It is true that a death might theoretically provide an insured’s family with 100,000 baht or more, but such windfalls are not automatic and subject to intense scrutiny by fraud investigators.” In other words, no easy pickings.