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Retirement in Thailand… Too naive?

Retirement in Thailand… Too naive?

The mandatory health insurance requitrement for all foreigners staying in Thailand on the Non-Immigrant O-A “retirement visa” will come into effect on Oct 31. The move to force all elderly expats staying in country to take out health insurance at exorbitant rates will have a dramatic, if not damning, impact on thousands of lives. Here is a letter sent to The Phuket News from a Swedish expat who has been living in Phuket for the past nine years. The letter draws a harrowing, poignant image of the bleak future that awaits many such expats once the mandatory health insurance requirement kicks in.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 October 2019, 11:00AM

Will the mandatory health insurance for all foreigners staying in Thailand on the Non-Immigrant O-A ‘retirement visa’ coming into effect on Oct 31 leave elderly expats in Thailand with nothing to look forward to? Photo: The Phuket News

Will the mandatory health insurance for all foreigners staying in Thailand on the Non-Immigrant O-A ‘retirement visa’ coming into effect on Oct 31 leave elderly expats in Thailand with nothing to look forward to? Photo: The Phuket News

With my friend, the ambassador, I enjoyed talking about our many visits to Thailand and the work with economists associated with trade unions during the past 35 years and many Thai leaders from different walks of life I had the opportunity to greet, namely at conferences.

That exchange inspired the decision at the age of 75 to move to Phuket nine years ago. My wife and I brought, as many others have done, most of our home, including our furniture, a multitude of books and a piano plus smaller things of importance to our lives.

My wife and I have improved our health living in the tropics and for sure also with the help of the good doctors and nurses we have met here.

When June 2020 comes we will literally be thrown out at the age of 85 because we are unable to pay for health insurance costing B300,000 a year or deposit almost half a million baht in a bank account until we are on our deathbed. That is in itself is a legitimate requirement in theory, because we should give the government a guarantee that we can pay for a supposed hospitalisation in the coming years, while my Swedish friends with a Thai spouse will not be required to have that.

The health insurance may, however, not deliver and pay for a hospitalisation since no health insurance will cover the risks that follow from our health history – and how shall Immigration be able to decide whether or not to accept even obvious non-functioning insurance policies until it is proven that the insurance company will not pay for hospitalisations.

When we moved here we were for four years covered by the public health insurance coverage in Belgium, where we previously lived for 35 years. That insurance covered us each year for hospitalisations of up to 90 consecutive days and for outpatient treatment, but was taken away from us in 2014 when the EU introduced the regulation of hospital care for EU citizens wherever they lived in Europe.

However, during these past nine years we have paid several hundred thousand baht for doctors, operations and the physical training my wife has received at Vachira* and now at Chalong Hospital**. That has kept my wife fit enough to enjoy life after a stroke 15 years ago.

Diamond Resort Phuket

We have a housekeeper that has said no to double the pay from others. She promised from the beginning to stay with us until the end of our lives. We will have to leave things behind and return to Europe. There is no way we can manage a house of our own at this time in life anywhere in Europe, if we now can find a new home. For sure not such as the one we have here and are able to manage with the help of our housekeeper.

I don't think we can even afford to take all our things back to Europe, our housekeeper can make better use of many of our things.

I just want to put the question to your readers. Was I naive to think I could have a peaceful retirement in Thailand?

Bo Jonsson,

* Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket Town

* Accident & Emergency Centre at the yet-to-open Chalong Hospital

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DeKaaskopp | 26 October 2019 - 15:18:45

1.000.000 Chinese green card holder? Only? They should double that and should issue one million more green cards for Africans.That would be a real big worker force they could exploit.Everyone benefits.The worker get a green card and the US get's many cheap worker.A win/win situation or "reciprocity".

Kurt | 25 October 2019 - 11:49:27

The attacks of DeK and GerryT81 on mr. DavidM are not fair. They completely go around/ignore the reciprocity thinking that mr. DavidM brought up. Perhaps both don't know the absence of balance in it or like to ignore facts concerning/regarding. A thai person abroad get more than a foreigner in Thailand. Land owning, pay same for medical care, no dual pricing experience. Etc, etc.

DavidM | 25 October 2019 - 02:00:21

Over 300,000 Thais have a U.S. green card.  How hard can it be?  Over a MILLION -- yes, a 1,000,000 -- Chinese have a U.S. green card.  Reciprocity is not hard to understand, even for the ultra-racists in the Thai government.

Kurt | 24 October 2019 - 14:42:25

I agree with mr DavidM. Problem with thai bureaucrats is they live/work insular in cocon. Never look/compare international.  And the word 'reciprocity', you mention that in front of them, eyes remain empty. The farthest they can go is murmur "national security', or " the law is the law", which means nothing in Thailand as law practice is different for rich/poor and forei...

DeKaaskopp | 24 October 2019 - 11:38:37

@Andy! I think you are missing the point completely.It's not about a travel insurance.Those cover you only for a couple of months,but are useless if you stay here the whole year.Not a surprise that that kind of Insurance is much cheaper.
@ DavidM  And you think it is that easy to get a green card if someone wants to retire in the US? BS. And calling it hate filled ultra racism is even more BS...

GerryT81 | 24 October 2019 - 09:18:27

Seems like Mr.David becomes more and more angry.Issuing permanent residency when  retiring here? Everyone can apply for it after a few years. And speaking about hate filled ultra racism? You must have a real problem . Look at your own country and ask your government to issue green cards for the millions of Mexican's/Latino's.

DavidM | 23 October 2019 - 15:40:11

Jerking around an 85-year-old man and his wife like this is nothing less than a hate-filled ultra-racism.  He should have been issued permanent residency (i.e., a green card) nine years ago and left alone to live his last years in peace, without any aggravation from any Thai bureaucracy.  All nations must insist on reciprocity with the hundreds of thousands of Thai expats overseas. 

DavidM | 23 October 2019 - 06:38:25

There should be no Non-Imm O visas.  They should all be RECIPROCAL green cards, with permanent residency and no TM30's or "visa renewals" necessary .. just like the 300,000 Thais have in the U.S., for example.

GerryT81 | 23 October 2019 - 00:40:31

"I got my o-visa in Penang.."I'm not supporting any Thai's" Big mistake from the embassy to do so.With your aversion against all Thai's ,i strongly hope that the only reason you came here for/still stay here for vanishes soon.

Kurt | 22 October 2019 - 22:36:59

Yes, Andy is right.For sure since government hospitals charge according that 3 tier payment system. In other words, almost same fees as international hospitals but for less skilled treatments. This whole not complete covering thai insurance thing is just a big money making scam. With dry eyes.

Kurt | 22 October 2019 - 22:23:35

When do we get a explanation about difference between  a non-imm A and a non-imm A-O visa. And how about a retirement visa, year in, year out, original based on a Non-imm B visa? After all it is all the same, just a retirement visa. Yes?

GerryT81 | 22 October 2019 - 17:22:22

"All expats should leave Thailand now..." No,not all,but definitely all those pesky serial whingers.Maybe the caring,unbiased and social US-Government could hand out green cards for them.

Sir Burr | 22 October 2019 - 16:54:23

Again.......it is ONLY holders on Non-Imm O-A visas that are affected. Extensions on this visa ONLY need health insurance.

Andy | 22 October 2019 - 16:50:59

I don't need the useless expensive insurance, I have annual travel insurance that covers 60 day trips with amounts multi times the Thai rubbish and all for under £200 a year, 10% of the Thai insurance. I can self fund the amounts 40,000 and 400,000. 400,000 won't go far if one has a big problem. I also have NHS cover as I am UK resident and tax payer so I can merely return to the UK if ne...

sugarloaf80 | 22 October 2019 - 15:10:46


Christy Sweet | 22 October 2019 - 12:31:33

I find the people just as callous, uncaring and void of compassion as their xenophobic govt. But I'm not  supporting any Thais, either.

DavidM | 22 October 2019 - 01:36:32

How sad.  The Thai government is heartless, cruel, and inhumane.  (Not the Thai people.)  All expats should leave Thailand now and take all of their money and investments with them, because Thailand does not practice reciprocity.  Over 300,000 Thais have an American green card with full civil and property rights.  They don't have to "renew" anything.

Christy Sweet | 21 October 2019 - 21:00:31

I got my O visa in Penang, not USA, and reside on extensions due to retirement.  It seems fairly clear, after Oct 31, any extensions on permission to stays will need an accompanying health insurance policy. 

SueYu2 | 21 October 2019 - 20:21:28

If this is true I've just wasted a fortune on not-needed insurance. Are you sure? 

Kurt | 21 October 2019 - 16:21:16

Anyone who can see in his passport or he has a Non Immi O visa or a Non immi O-A visa? Anyone understand why not both need to have a health insurance while staying in Thailand? it becomes more and more complicated to understand.

UniquePhuket | 21 October 2019 - 11:52:32

Please Please Phuket News - publish articles with all the facts! As Sir Burr as already clarified and this was not Clear in you article - this does NOT affect retires already here on retirement annual renewal with Non Imm O visa.  

Kurt | 21 October 2019 - 11:43:14

Sir Burr,  where is written/stated by thai immigration that you only need a health insurance during your first Retirement Visa application, and not for extensions following years?

Kurt | 21 October 2019 - 11:35:35

I learned one can apply for a non immi B Visa at thai embassy in home country. Than within 3 months time deciding not to start any business but apply for a 'Retirement Visa' instead. Need such a foreigner needs a health insurance?

Kurt | 21 October 2019 - 11:31:00

What is the sifference between a thai A visa and a thai A-O visa in relationship with yes/no being obligated to have a health insurance?

Sir Burr | 20 October 2019 - 15:34:47

Oh dear....so many people have wrong info. Firstly, you only need this health insurance when you apply for a Non Imm O-A visa. This has to be done in your own country. Most people who retire here are on a Non-Imm O which is not affected. Once you are in Thailand with your Non Imm O-A and you need a yearly extension, you are also unaffected. It is only for the first application. Of course this coul


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