Thailand’s confusing insurance rules for visitors continue

Thailand really has to decide whether it wants foreign visitors or not.

Today’s announcements by the Ministry of Health about new entry rules leave vital insurance questions up in the air. A new condition specifies that all entrants should have US$50,000 insurance, either from Thai or foreign-based companies, but does not specify whether such a policy should be Covid-specific, or for general medical cover, or for both.

Meanwhile, the same ministry confirms it is expanding its health insurance ceiling to US$100,000 for non-immigrant 0/A visa holders who formerly were subject to a policy worth only 400,000 baht inpatient and 40,000 baht outpatient cover. Again, there appears to be no clarification whether such a new policy is Covid-specific or must cover other medical emergencies. But the policy can be Thai or foreign.

0/A annual visas for retirees, issued by Thai embassies, cover less than 4,000 elderly individuals. It is a mystery why they have been singled out for harsher treatment.  Most retirees in fact hold other visas, including “0”, marriage visas or Elite. Some are even permanent residents who don’t need a visa in any case (although they do require a re-entry permit if they leave Thailand).

It is also unclear whether the new insurance rules will be in force only at Thai embassies abroad, or will additionally apply at Thai immigration when applicants seek extensions of stay which can vary from one week to 12 months according to the specific visa. Traditionally, Thai immigration offices (which do not report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which supervises embassies) have operated semi-independently.

Insurance for foreign tourists is understandably and rapidly becoming standard in the new-normal of a Covid-infected world. Thailand is one of the countries most dependent on tourist income. New rules such as PCR testing, paying for hotel accommodation whilst test results are known and a separate 500 baht arrival tax are all extras on top of insurance costs. Air fares are rising too in line with hiked oil prices. The confusion over insurance just adds to the muddle about whether Thailand really wants the tourists back.