Given the recent attention being paid to the plight of expats who are experiencing financial and/or medical difficulties in Thailand, we decided to take a week away from our current series of articles in order to provide some information on the government support that is available for foreigners seeking medical care in Thailand.
For foreigners who require medical coverage in Thailand but are not legally employed with an accompanying visa and work permit, there is currently no public option available. This means that you must either obtain private health insurance or risk having to pay all your medical bills out-of-pocket. However, debates have been taking place in the halls of government throughout the year about the possibility of including a mandatory fee on all tourist visas, with the tourists then being provided corresponding healthcare benefits under Thailand's National Health Security Act. The National Health Security Act is different than the Social Security Act discussed below, and with a few exceptions its benefits are not available to foreigners. This plan is still in its preliminary stages, but if put into practice would provide some form of medical insurance for everyone entering the Kingdom. For those individuals who are (or have been) employed in Thailand, public support to cover medical expenses is available in the form of Social Security.
Social Security in Thailand carries a different meaning than when compared to its Western counterparts, as it is both a national healthcare and retirement programme all within a single piece of legislation. For purposes of this article, we will focus on the healthcare aspect, and, more specifically, how it applies to foreigners. The Social Security Act BE 2533 (1990) provides that any foreigner aged 15-60 with a valid employment visa and work permit qualifies for Social Security. If you are a first time applicant over 60, unfortunately you no longer qualify. However, if you are over the age limit and received your Social Security card before you turned 60, you can continue receiving benefits.
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