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Claim centres to track down tourists who skip hospital bills

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Around Thailand March 11, 2019 01:00

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Nation

FOREIGN TOURISTS failed to pay a combined Bt300 million in medical bills after receiving treatment in state hospitals last year, prompting the government to set up “claim centres” to collect what’s due.

“These problems mostly hit tourist cities,” Health Service Support Department (HSSD) director-general Dr Nattawuth Prasertsiripong said last week.

He said the HSSD had established claim centres in Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phang Nga and Surat Thani to help state hospitals collect what’s owed them by foreigners they treated.

“The centres will work with relevant parties and follow up on payments,” Nattawuth said. 

“We’ve tried asking their consulates and embassies for help, but not all cases can be solved this way,” he said.

Natthawuth said he had heard about hospitals requiring foreign tourists to sign agreements to pay later, but it was difficult to collect after they had left hospital.

“This is partly because state hospitals don’t have expertise in debt collection. So we hope the claim centres will be the solution.”

The HSSD aims to establish “many” more claim centres this year, he said. 

It has also discussed with various organisations about offering foreign visitors cheap travel insurance. 

Natthawuth said he hoped travel insurance would become mandatory for all foreign visitors to save state hospitals from having to shoulder the extra burden. 

“For now, at least we believe all tour operators bringing people into Thailand should require that their customers have travel insurance,” he said. 

In the longer term, he would like to see long-stay tourists be required to buy life insurance, accident insurance and health insurance. 

“We’re also thinking about making insurance mandatory for elderly foreigners who retire to Thailand. Otherwise the state hospitals will again be carrying the burden.”

Because health naturally declines as people age and seniors require more medical help. 

“So we need to address the fact there are many foreign retirees in Chiang Mai. We have to prepare proper measures to ensure they do not become a burden on the public healthcare system,” Nattawuth said. 

Thailand’s medical-hub committee last year approved in principle a plan to require newly arrived long-stay immigrants to purchase health insurance for their first year here. They and other foreigners planning to stay in Thailand for one year would be able to buy up to Bt40,000 worth of outpatient coverage and Bt400,000 of inpatient coverage. 

A source in Chiang Mai suggested the authorities also consider the medical costs of stateless people and migrants from neighbouring nations. They often can’t pay for treatment received at state hospitals. 

“We hope the relevant organisations will provide funds to take care of these people,” the source said. 




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The only problem I foresee is that Immigration might decide to require all retirees to purchase Thai insurance. My bank had offered it to me until I told them how old I was. It seems the cap on buying the insurance is age 60 or 65, I've forgotten which. Yet most retirees I know here are in their 60's and older.


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Worse would be that any tourist coming to Thailand must have insurance...which would hurt the tourist industry.

The big insurance companies offer coverage for those over 60, but once 70, the coverage is USA prices, like $1000/month or so.

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Government mandated insurance purchases, I can see that spreading across the world and AIG and their lot, giggling in their vats of money.

Here in NZ, a couple of AIG owned companies, have started refusing customers, for what we call "home & contents" insurance, in the Wellington region, not a small place.

On account of there might be an Earthquake one day. There was an Earthquake in Kaikoura not too long ago and the Insurance companies had to pay out a lot, due to their taking premiums for same, for many many years. Not that they wanted to pay out mind, they made it difficult for claimants to get even part, of what they had expected, under the terms their insurance policy.

It seems that insurance only works, when Insurance companies take premiums, for ever, and then no claims are ever made or allowed.


On the claim centres in Thailand for foreigners skipping the country owing hospital bills, doesn't that happen in every country?

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On 3/11/2019 at 3:53 PM, Flashermac said:

The only problem I foresee is that Immigration might decide to require all retirees to purchase Thai insurance.


That already is a requirement for Non-Immigrant Visa O-X (aka the 10 year visa) Insurance HAS to be purchased from one of three Thai Companies



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In my wife's village it would be insulting if I offered to pay them.  I had a cyst on my neck behind my ear, I couldn't really operate on it myself, and my wife is squeamish.  For nearly two weeks I went to the clinic daily until it was resolved, free bandages, free medical care, free antibiotics. 

When my wife comes to Australia I pay thousands of dollars to ensure she has the exact same universal medical care that I'm entitled to.   I'm only one person, but I feel a lot of shame.   I talked to a Labor politician about this recently and he was sympathetic but I could tell he was non-committal.

And to get this news that foreigners aren't paying their bills, as small and derisive as they are just makes me angry. 

BTW I made a large anonymous donation to the local clinic.

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