Thailand is world-renowned as a medical tourism hub, offering state-of-the-art facilities and affordable treatment plans. Nonetheless, as an expat who has made the land of smiles your home, you will be happy to know that you might be able to get an even better deal than medical tourists. After all, saving money is no bad thing. In this article, we will walk you through how healthcare works for residents in Thailand and provide you with some money-saving tips.
Healthcare for residents
While the leading hospitals catering to medical tourists in Thailand are top-tier private ones like Bangkok Hospital, Bumrungrad Hospital, and Samitivej Hospital, the country is also home to good mid-tier private and public hospitals. In fact, leading public hospitals like Chulalongkorn Hospital, Ramathibodi Hospital, and Siriraj Hospital have some of the best doctors and facilities in the world.
The main advantage of visiting private hospitals catering to medical tourists is that they are equipped in dealing with foreigners. These hospitals usually have interpreters on hand and doctors with international experience. For instance, Bangkok Hospital’s International Medical Service offers many different cuisines, liaises with embassies, etc. However, be prepared to pay much more at these hospitals.
As an expat in Thailand, you will also be able to access mid-tier private and public hospitals. These are generally much cheaper and frequented by the majority of locals. Mid-tier private hospitals offer shorter waiting times and better facilities than public hospitals- though not five-star treatment like their top-end counterparts. Public hospitals, on the other hand, are even cheaper but tend to be oversubscribed.
- Go to public hospitals, private sections within public hospitals, or mid-tier private hospitals.
Thai citizens have access to the “Universal Coverage Health Card”, which makes the cost of healthcare at public hospitals close to nothing. As an expat, you will, of course, not be eligible. In fact, there is “dual pricing” at public hospitals that make the cost of treatments more expensive for foreign nationals. However, it may still be cheaper than going to private hospitals.
What you will find is that the main downsides of public hospitals in Thailand, like in most ones elsewhere, is the long waiting times. Going to a mid-tier private hospital eliminates this problem without breaking the bank. Alternatively, some public hospitals like Siriraj Hospital also have separate buildings for those who want a more exclusive service. You will not have to pay as much as you would in a top-end private hospital.
- Select a doctor, not a hospital.
In Thailand, many doctors working within private hospitals also work a few hours at public hospitals. Therefore, a good money-saving tip is to choose a good doctor and visit them at a public hospital. Even though you may have to wait longer to see them, there are ways to beat the queues. For starters, queues can be longer in the morning so you should go later in the day.
What’s more, you could also go to both private and public hospitals. Visit a doctor in a private hospital to get a diagnosis and then continue the long-term treatment plan at a public hospital. If you need to be admitted, going to public hospitals also means that you can save money on the room. Unlike private hospitals that often only have expensive single or VIP rooms, public hospitals give you the option to stay in a shared room.
- Look for a good health insurance plan.
Of course, if you’d rather not be limited in your choice of hospitals or by the cost factor, you can save money on healthcare by taking out a good private health insurance plan. If you plan to travel extensively in the region, especially to other southeast Asian countries with a less developed healthcare sector than Thailand, having an international health insurance plan may also be something to consider.
When looking for health insurance, one way to save money is to choose plans that include “annual deductible” or “coinsurance”. The former states a fixed amount you have to pay before the insurance plan kicks in, while the latter is when the cost is shared between you and your insurance provider. These can often be buried deep in the insurance policies, so make sure you look at the fine print.
It might be worth enlisting a health insurance broker to help you get the right plan for your needs and budget. If you’re looking for a reputable one, Pacific Prime Thailand is one of Asia’s largest health insurance brokers and has over two decades of experience helping expats compare health insurance plans. Feel free to contact their team of experts for a consultation or visit their website for a no-obligation quote.