Ageing with Dr Iain

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Dear Editor,

No Friday morning would be complete for me without the often witty and incisive scribblings of Dr Iain Corness.  I am pleased (Modern Medicine April 12) that his own family insurance premium is not expensive and that medical costs in Thailand are cheaper than in Oz.  But is he a typical guy?

There are now oceans of elderly expats in their 70s swarming around Pattaya.  Check the matter out at any expat club meeting or quiz evening with all those, most male, wrinkled faces.  I suspect the majority are not covered by adequate medical insurance.  Either they left it too late to join a scheme or they have quit because of the ever-rising premiums even as the pound and the euro sink helplessly.

What is expensive or cheap depends on your financial resources.  But I don’t know any properly insured septuagenarian paying less than 200,000 baht a year and some considerably more.  Eventually these guys will have to admit defeat and become their own insurer.  Let’s not forget that one night in a good intensive care unit in Thailand can cost 100,000 baht – remember the frontloaded tests and diagnosis.

I don’t blame the hospitals.  The Thai government has encouraged mass migration of elderly westerners by lax retirement visa rules.  The country is now stuck with a very serious ageing problem of farangs, many of whom are no longer covered for hospitalization in their first country.  Between a rock and a hard place indeed!

In the 1990s, Thai immigration required a letter from any doctor before awarding a long-term permit.  I’m told that this rule was abolished after a successful applicant dropped dead in the car park after receiving his visa.  He had suffered a heart attack.

Barry Kenyon