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Phuket Opinion: Recalibrating the retirement visa

Phuket Opinion: Recalibrating the retirement visa

PHUKET: The move currently in progress to ensure retirees staying in Thailand on Non-Immigrant O-A “retirement” visas have some form of health insurance has opened a veritable can of worms.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 19 May 2019, 09:00AM

The section for Non-Immigrant O-A visas on the application form as available for download from the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra, Australia.

The section for Non-Immigrant O-A visas on the application form as available for download from the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra, Australia.

In announcing the new policy – which has yet to be brought into effect – Dr Natthawut Prasertsiripong, Chief of the Ministry of Public Health Department of Health Service Support, noted that “foreigners who are in their elder years staying on this type of visa have more health issues than other foreigners staying on other types of visas.”

That’s not rocket science. Older people anywhere have more health issues than younger folk, but Dr Nutthawut also plainly pointed out that the government is looking to unload the burden of footing the bill for medical treatment left unpaid by senior expats who didn’t have the money to pay them.

No one is going to argue with any government wanting to rein in that bill, although recent figures announced on this issue have been very unclear exactly which types of tourists have left how much in unpaid medical bills. To that end, the Thai government has already taken better steps to provide at least basic insurance coverage for tourists entering the country. Now they’re trying to zero out any other credits in their ledger.

Under the new policy, the insurance coverage to be required for retirement visas must provide up to B40,000 coverage for outpatient treatment and up to B400,000 for inpatient treatment. To be fair, that’s not much, but that part is not the problem.

Dr Natthawut got much closer to the point when he admitted that consideration is being made for foreigners whose health risks are considered by private insurance companies as too high to offer coverage. That’s the age bracket we are talking about. Insurance policy prices skyrocket as applicants enter their later years. The whole idea of an insurance policy is to receive money in the hope that the money does not have to be paid back out. It’s a business, and older folk are just more likely to draw a claim due to health issues.

Thanyapura Health 360

That’s why Dr Natthawut also pointed out, “The relevant authorities might consider requiring them to have higher deposits in bank accounts so as to make sure that they have enough to live on during their stay in the Kingdom of Thailand.”

And here’s the issue. These are the same foreigners that Thailand invited by offering so-called retirement visas so that people could spend their golden years – and their money – in Thailand without having to work. The very nature of the visas offered targeted these people. And now it seems that the message is, “You’re welcome to stay while you can spend your money, but if you get too ill you’d better go home.” That’s not exactly a well-thought-out strategy when inviting older people to come. Older people tend to have more life experience and see through such paper-thin intents.

Regardless, at this stage we can be grateful that the policy is not yet in force and that consideration is still being given in how to accommodate elder guests already staying in the country.

There are some other options on the table, such as reciprocal arrangements with foreign governments to provide medical care for their citizens while in Thailand, like those used across the EU and through independent arrangements such as that between Australia and Sweden. Let’s hope they use them.

After all, this is an entire form of long-stay tourism all of its own, with benefits to be gained by guests and hosts if managed well.

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Christy Sweet | 21 May 2019 - 10:43:18

I thought they said "Come to Thailand for the horses.." oh, it was whores...If you're not supporting some erstwhile bar-girl and her extended family up  in Issan,  get out Yankee !

Kurt | 20 May 2019 - 12:20:35

Talking about thai NIDAL Polls:
In BP of 19 May an article that according a NIDAL poll 31.25% of the thai drive the roads without a driving license! Well, at least I feel relaxed to know that these illegal drivers will feed my medical bills after hitting me, in possession of thai driving licenses, on the road.  Right?

Kurt | 20 May 2019 - 12:12:05

Was there any NIDAL Poll, proving that retirees, with their 800,000 Baht deposit are more hospitalised than younger foreign permit- workers who often are much more involved in tragic traffic accidents? All their medical bills always paid? Do they have 800,000 thb in deposit?

Shwe | 20 May 2019 - 12:03:41

can he explain why retirees need to keep 800k in the bank? Probably has no idea about that,not his ministry
These runners must be going to govt. hospitals, Private hospitals would have to absorb that loss (if any) They immediately have security on you if you even think about leaving without paying. I don't think many retirees would trust their health to a govt. hospital, I know I wouldn't

Kurt | 20 May 2019 - 11:02:12

My retirement visa is yearly from 15 September till 15 September.
My International health insurance ( with better cover than the 7 suggested thai insurances) is from 1 November till 1 November. 
Can Dr Natthawut tell me how Thai Government/Immigration is going to handle this during re-issue retirement visa in September?

Timothy | 20 May 2019 - 08:05:18

They know full well it's the short stay tourists that are not paying their bills. I'm sure many of those were hurt in accidents caused by locals and didn't feel obligated to pay. How else could they walk out?  The TAT doesn't want to scare away tourists by demanding compulsory insurance from them, so they are trying to pass the blame on to those with retirement visas. 

Kurt | 19 May 2019 - 15:56:53

Good PN Opinion piece. This  'action' is very thai. ."First do something, think about doing later"..What about 50+ Expats who already have year in, year out, good international covering ( including Thailand) health insurances? When Expat just renewed such insurance and has to renew Ret. Visa in September, is Immigration than rejecting? So, no next Ret. Visa?  We need answers!

khon kaen | 19 May 2019 - 11:07:12

I would bet most of the runners are tourists, not retirees.

CMResident | 19 May 2019 - 10:33:31

“Dr Nutthawut also plainly pointed out that the government is looking to unload the burden of footing the bill”... First The good doctor needs to explain the “business” practices they employ that allow 600,000 people to walk out the door without paying?... Dr Natthawut is aware that the ~80,000 long term stay foreigners are required the put 65,000 baht a month into the Thai econom...


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