Thai expats desperately searching for Covid-19 insurance with mixed results

Even after vaccination, some expats may need Covid insurance to renew visas.

The recent decision by the Thai Cabinet to approve “in principle” compulsory Covid insurance of at least 3 million baht (US$100,000) when extending O/A annual visas at Thai immigration has certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons. But the whole complex issue remains unclear as the immigration police now have the truly unenviable job of filling in the detail prior to the new rules appearing in the Royal Gazette. That will likely take months.

The important distinction is whether you are in or out of Thailand when making your insurance application. Much easier if you are abroad. The website offers Covid insurance to anyone aged 0-99 years entering Thailand. The cost is based exclusively on your country of departure and how long your visa is for. As examples a person boarding in London will pay 23,040 baht for one year’s cover and someone travelling from the United States 6,400 baht for 90 days.

The virus has had a disastrous effect on so many businesses.

That cover, under the auspices of the Thai General Insurance Association, does incorporate the government’s requirement of virus cover of 3 million baht. However, there is a warning notice on the website that the insurance is for visitors to the country “and not for residents of Thailand at this time.” So expats already here can forget this particular escape route. Additionally, some countries with very high infection rates (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) are excluded from the list of departure points.

So expats are looking for domestic virus cover in Thailand. The website offers Covid insurance to expats who have a work permit or “who have resided here for at least six months.” The cost is a sliding scale between 350 and 850 baht annually. However, the policy details obviously would not cover the government stipulation of 3 million baht. For example, inpatient Covid cover is limited to 200,000 baht, subject to approval.

Even American presidents are not immune from the need to seek protection.

Yet another option is to link Covid cover with general medical insurance covering other diseases accidents, etc. Those going to can study the integrated policies of several Thai-based and international companies. However, there are age restrictions now that illnesses other than Covid are covered. Expats applying in their 60s might need a prior medical examination and those in their mid-70s and above will have grave problems trying to register the first time.

Of course, the internet is chock-o-block with offers of Covid cover for all ages. It’s a case of Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware. There is no universal definition of Covid cover and it’s down to each company to make its own offer. Expressions such as “pre-existing conditions,” “non-recognized quarantine center” or “hospitalization without a doctor’s recommendation” can and do mean you can’t actually claim if you catch the disease. It’s a wise course to consult a local insurance agent with a good reputation unless you are very confident about deciphering deliberately obscure language in policy-speak.

The streetwise know full well that insurance brokers can arrange policies for the advanced elderly, but there will certainly be heavy exclusion clauses demanded by the company for obvious reasons. It would be tragic if any new immigration rules were designed simply to raise revenue for insurance companies and had no relevance to the health of the expat population. If, as we are told, the Thai government is looking to attract hundreds of thousands of retirees, investors, digital nomads and property hunters in a revamped immigration policy, the authorities had better watch their step. They could actually empty the place.