The healthcare system in Thailand
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Updated 3 months ago

It is advisable for anyone moving to Thailand to purchase health insurance before travelling, as visitors who are unable to pay medical expenses cause a huge financial burden and can be refused treatment.

English-speaking general practitioners, dentists and opticians can be widely found in Thailand, and most major provinces have at least one private hospital, while popular tourist destinations have more. However, most doctors in Thailand are specialists, which makes it sometimes difficult to find a reliable all-round general practitioner for minor medical problems. Most doctors and surgeons in government hospitals also do not have one specific place of work and can have a busy schedule that is spread across different hospitals over the whole of cities like Bangkok. These various factors should all be considered when making a decision about which doctor to have or where to go for medical care.

Unfortunately, emergency transport facilities are not fully developed in Thailand, and the main obstacle in medical emergencies is traffic in a city like Bangkok. If you plan to live in the capital and have a medical condition that may need immediate attention, it is, therefore, advisable to find accommodation that is close to a suitable hospital.

Types of healthcare in Thailand

Thailand's health service infrastructure consists of three components ' government health services, non-profit health organisations (NGOs), and the private medical sector.

Government-funded healthcare is managed by the Department of Medical Services at the Ministry of Public Health, which oversees public health services, government hospitals, and medical services. Public health facilities in Thailand do offer good medical services, but most government hospitals can often be quite crowded, which means that waiting times can be long.

Treatment is entirely free for Thai citizens who hold a Universal Coverage Health card, which is issued by the National Health Security Office. In 2001, Thailand introduced the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS), which was described as 'one of the most ambitious healthcare reforms ever undertaken in a developing country.' Other public fundings include the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme (CSMBS), the Worker Compensation Scheme (WCS) and the Social Security Scheme (SSS). However, the UCS covers the majority of the population with outpatient, inpatient and emergency care. If you are not a Thai citizen, then you can expect to pay a fee for medical services at government hospitals, unless you have an insurance or a Social Security Card.

The private medical sector in Thailand is booming, and the country is now one of the leading medical tourism destinations in Asia. Most private hospitals in Thailand have excellent staff, medical facilities, and hotel-like amenities that are arguably better than those in public hospitals, but fees are also more expensive.

A variety of non-profit health organisations, such as The Red Cross, World Vision and Médecins Sans Frontières, also operate in Thailand to help disadvantaged people.

Health insurance and fees in Thailand

Whenever you seek medical care in Thailand, it is important to have your medical insurance documents with you. If ever you are admitted to the hospital, you will be required to pay upfront for any treatment and then be reimbursed by your insurance. Most hospitals will recognise international private medical insurance, but you will need to pay for any services that are not covered by your insurance before you can be discharged from the hospital.

There are many insurance companies to choose from, according to your needs and budget. Some of the leading health insurance providers are:

Consider having a look at their offers according to your needs and get a free quote on Expat.com's Health Insurance for expatriates in Thailand page.

Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment or a high deposit from foreigners. Private hospitals may even ask to see proof of funds before treating you if you are not insured.

Medical risks in Thailand

Before flying to Thailand, it is advisable to consult your nearest travel clinic about which vaccines are recommended and to be sure you are vaccinated before departure. Do also be aware that there is a risk of malaria in some parts of Thailand, so consult your doctor to help you decide whether you wish to take malaria tablets, depending on the duration of your stay. Other mosquito-related illnesses of which to be mindful are dengue fever and chikungunya, so whether you decide to forego a malaria prophylaxis or not, then it is still advisable to apply repellent and sleep under a mosquito net or in aircon.

Useful links:

Thailand Social Security Office
MSNA Group ' Social Security Workmen Compensation
Redcross
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) ' Thailand

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