Thinking of escaping the US for a more laid back life in Thailand? Well, you’re in for a treat. This glorious country will spoil you with its white sandy beaches, friendly people, exotic wildlife, mouthwatering cuisine, and a nightlife that is sure to leave you with some amazing memories. 

There are so many reasons to move to Thailand – and luckily for you, its healthcare system doesn’t hinder it in the slightest. 

But before you make the big move away from the US, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your new home’s healthcare system – this way, there'll be no nasty surprises along the way. Simply scroll down this page to get more acquainted with Thailand’s healthcare options. 

If you’ve already decided that private medical cover is a good idea for your move abroad, you can start building a customised plan with Cigna, who currently protect more than 95 million customers all over the world.

Thai healthcare: Key facts

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view of thailand at sunset

Picturing your time abroad basking in this orange, hazy sunset in Doi Inthanon?

A brief overview of Thailand’s healthcare system

Thailand’s healthcare system consists of three components: public health services, the private medical sector, and non-profit health organizations (NGOs).

  • Public healthcare – The public health facilities in Thailand offer good medical services. Treatment is usually free for Thai citizens who hold a Universal Coverage Health card, which is issued by the National Health Security Office. If you aren’t a Thai citizen, then normal charges for using public healthcare facilities will still apply
  • Private healthcare Thailand prides itself as one of the leading medical tourism destinations in Asia, with most of its private hospitals having world-class medical facilities and staff. But beware: this quality comes at a price, so you might want to make sure you get medical cover before using private services
  • Non-profit health organizations – There are a variety of agencies in Thailand that aim to help disadvantaged people. These agencies include the Red Cross, World Vision, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

If you are a permanent resident in Thailand, you must subscribe to the compulsory national insurance system to cover yourself in case of any illness or injuries.

 

How is healthcare paid for in Thailand?

Thailand’s public healthcare, also known as the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS), is entirely funded by the government – mostly through revenue from general taxes.

This tax-funded healthcare scheme has reduced infant mortality, decreased worker sick days, and lightened families’ financial burden for healthcare – costing just $80 per person annually. 

 

Is there free healthcare in Thailand?

Healthcare is free (within the limits of local hospital facilities) for Thai citizens holding a Universal Coverage Health (UCH) card. The only exception for this falls on Saturdays, when even UCH cardholders will be charged for treatment.

For citizens, free healthcare services are usually limited to your local hospital. So, if you’re a UCH cardholder but want to be treated in the medical facility of your choice, you’ll also have to pay for it out of your own pocket. 

If you are not eligible for the national healthcare system, you will have to pay for your treatment. In most cases, you would have to pay independently, and then you may be reimbursed by your insurance providers if you are covered.

 

Healthcare in Thailand for US expats

While Thai nationals can make use of free medical care, expats will need to find alternate avenues. If you’re moving to Thailand from the US, you’ll probably want to either save up to pay for your medical expenses on the spot, or rely on a Thailand health insurance policy to cover the fees. 

If you’re moving to Thailand for work, we have some good news – you will normally be covered by social security. This means your employer will pay into the government-run health service on your behalf – although bear in mind that this is funded by a monthly salary deduction of 5%

Healthcare under this scheme will grant you free consultations and medication, though consultations can be quite brief and medications are sometimes limited. Again, if you need to be seen at a different hospital to your local one, treatment will not be covered on the social security scheme.

If you’re moving to Thailand without a job, or for retirement, social security won’t be a viable option for you. Instead, you should probably look into medical cover options, and how much it will end up costing you. Build your customised plan with Cigna today to get your head around the figures.  

Thailand’s Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) was first introduced in 2002. Before the UCS, nearly one in four people were uninsured, while others were covered by insurance that offered only partial protection.

How good is healthcare in Thailand?

Generally, healthcare in Thailand is up to a good standard – especially in Bangkok. You can look forward to plenty of English-speaking doctors and specialists in more built-up areas of Thailand, although this expat-friendly service is less common in rural neighborhoods. 

A recent study by The Lancet used carefully weighted methods to score each country, and awarded Thailand's healthcare system a rating of 76 out of a possible 100. 

Some of Thailand’s premium government hospitals, such as Chulalongkorn, Ramathibodi and Siriraj, are staffed with exceptional doctors, and are even said to be among the best-equipped hospitals in the world. 

As with most public healthcare systems across the globe, the waiting times tend to let expats down. The average waiting time for hospital patients is 175 minutes, whereas waiting times at a GP clinic are for an average of 93 minutes.

A unique problem that expats might come across in the Thai healthcare system is that it is often easier to find a specialist than a GP, which can be a pain if you’re just after a general check-up. If you do come across this issue, however, a specialist at a general hospital should be able to treat most general issues too.

Problems like this may be solved if the government decides to spend more on healthcare. It currently dedicates just 3.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to healthcare, according to Statista.

View of Bangkok at dusk

Bangkok seeming deceptively calm from this cityscape view. This vibrant city is jam-packed with culture, local delicacies, and beautiful views 

Do I need health insurance in Thailand?

All expats are required by law to have health insurance if they are working in Thailand. Typically, people opt for private health insurance, which gives them access to an excellent standard of care at a range of private facilities without the burden of last-minute expense.

It is usually best to get in-patient insurance as the basic minimum, and then get out-patient cover as an addition if it proves necessary. Many international insurance companies provide insurance policies for expats living in Thailand and prices can be competitive, so it’s worth shopping around. 

As government hospitals are the more affordable option, there is often a queue for their facilities. Patients may have to wait several weeks, or even months before they can see a doctor or get a specialised test. Private hospitals, on the other hand, tend to have very short waiting times. 

What’s more, private healthcare typically has better customer service, and more polished facilities. But to avoid the price tag that comes with this high-quality service, we recommend getting yourself covered with health insurance. It will mean you don’t need to experience nasty financial surprises, whilst also receiving the best quality care. 

If this option sounds right for you, you can get a better idea of how much private medical cover will cost you in Thailand – start building a customised plan with Cigna today.

If you’re moving to Thailand for work, you might not need to look into health insurance, since legally working expats qualify for social security. However, this will be funded from 5% of your monthly salary, and you may find that social security does not provide you with all the cover you require.

 

Benefits of private medical cover in Thailand

  • Avoid long queues
  • Top quality treatment
  • Avoid any unexpected costs from the GP 
  • Access to more than just your local hospital
  • You may be able to access treatment at home or over the phone 

One of the main reasons US expats get medical cover is to avoid on-the-spot payments for an unexpected injury or illness. But just how much will medical cover save you from having to pay out-of-pocket?

Medical procedureCost in the USCost in Thailand
Heart bypass$123,000$15,000
Hip replacement$40,364$17,000
Hysterectomy$15,400$3,650
Dental implant$2,500$1,720

As you can see, healthcare in Thailand is drastically cheaper than in the US. Despite this, however, it’s still not a great surprise to have to fork out $15,000 out of the blue. Make sure you get health insurance to cover yourself in these sticky situations.

How much is health insurance in Thailand?

The average cost of private health insurance varies across companies. Your personal circumstances will also alter the price, depending on your age, whether you have any health conditions, and the type of plan you choose (local, international, or basic coverage).

In Thailand, the average International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) premium for American expats is roughly $2,000 per year, while the average IPMI premium for families is $10,000.

Bear in mind that this figure takes into account premiums for a wide variety of plans, coverage requirements, and ages. In reality, your coverage may be much higher or lower than these figures.

To get a better idea of how much private medical cover will cost you in Thailand, you can start building a customised plan with Cigna today.

Advice for people moving to Thailand

Now that we’ve taken you through the ins and outs of healthcare in Thailand, hopefully you’re feeling a little more clued up. 

Before you hop on the plane to start your new Thai adventure, make sure to check out the following articles to get you pumped for your trip: