The latest Thai government free medical insurance scheme is limited in scope.

The Thai government’s 50 million baht coverage for foreign visitors applies specifically to “tourists” who have been admitted with a visa-exempt stamp or a 60 days tourist visa awarded by an embassy. The scheme does not cover holders of current non-immigrant visas or extensions or longstay permits.

Tourism and sports minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol said the government wanted to provide a safety net where tourists who die on vacation here might be covered for one million baht on a case by case basis. Accidents which cause permanent organ loss or blindness or permanent disability might merit 300,000 baht compensation plus 500,000 baht for medical treatment. However, carelessness or risky or illegal behaviour by the visitor will invalidate any claim.

The ministry is stressing that long stay and business travellers are not covered by the insurance programme which covers the year 2024 until August 31. Spokesman Mongkon Wimonrat said most group travel visitors buy pre-holiday insurance which is required by the tourism business and guide act of 2008. Independent travellers should make their own insurance arrangements.

Expats, who are exempted from the scheme, are not normally required to have insurance unless they hold an O/A retirement visa or extension of stay, originally issued by a Thai embassy abroad, or a 10-year Long Term Residence as well as foreigners working with an employment permit covered by other regulations. Embassies are continually warning uninsured foreign visitors and residents that inpatient costs in Thailand are very expensive, for example running into millions of baht following serious road accidents.

UK visa specialist Peter Clarke said, “The government insurance for tourists is designed to hand out cash after tragedies such as major traffic pileups or boats sinking. But 500,000 baht won’t cover most operations requiring significant surgery and excludes expats in any case.” He added that, while the scheme was useful in context, all foreigners in Thailand should purchase comprehensive medical insurance or self-insure with at least 3 million baht or US$100,000 in reserve.

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Author: Barry Kenyon