Accessible and Affordable: World-Class Healthcare in Thailand

When my wife Vivien and I first began looking into an overseas retirement we looked everywhere for information. We wanted to know about the costs, climate, safety…how easy it was to make friends…would we be bored…the list went on and on…and if you’re reading this you probably have many of the same questions we did.

One of our most important questions was: “will we be able to access good healthcare?” The answer for Thailand was a definitive “yes” and the country’s excellent healthcare was one of the deciding factors in our move to the beach town of Hua Hin.

After two years here we have no complaints.

You’ll find state-of-the-art medical facilities staffed by English-speaking doctors and clinicians, very often trained in the West and at the top of their game. Costs are so low that many expats simply pay out-of-pocket for treatment.

The country has long been a destination for medical tourism and it is ranked among the world’s 50 best healthcare systems by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Many doctors undertake specialist training abroad (usually in the U.S. and Europe), and are at least as well qualified as physicians in the West—often more so.

Large private hospitals are also staffed with translators to assist foreigners in communicating with any medical professionals who aren’t fluent in English.

Both Vivien and I and the many expats we know in Hua Hin are happy in the knowledge that world- class healthcare is available close by.

Local clinics are set up for the Thai residents but expats are also welcome. All are operated by well-qualified and experienced medical practitioners. A consultation with an English-speaking doctor, including treatment and medications (which is usually dispensed by a pharmacist on staff at the clinic) typically costs no more than $20.

Most local clinics operate of an evening (from 5:00 p.m.) so locals can attend without interrupting their normal work day. The medical staff at these clinics have probably spent their day working in one of the major hospitals.

The alternative to these local clinics are the outpatient departments at the major hospitals. Thailand has a large network of public and private hospitals. The largest private hospital network is Bangkok Hospital Group, with over 40 locations throughout Thailand. Public hospitals are much less expensive than their private counterparts but they are generally more crowded and sometimes less well-equipped.

However, all the medical facilities in the country are staffed by well-trained doctors and nurses who provide excellent care to both expats and locals alike.

It is not uncommon to walk into a local private hospital and be seen by a specialist within the hour. Checking in for a first visit is simple and efficient. Most of the receptionists in Thai hospitals are nurses so you will immediately be transferred to the appropriate specialist following a few brief questions about your situation.

According to the World Bank, under Thailand’s public health schemes, 99.5% of the Thai population has health cover. However, there is no public health insurance for expats in Thailand unless it is part of an employment package.

Like many expats here, Vivien and I do have private health insurance to cover in-hospital and emergency hospital services.

Very few expats insure for outpatient care as it is so inexpensive at local clinics and it drastically increases the cost of health insurance.

Our in-hospital insurance, for a couple, cost $3,700 per annum or around $310 a month. Back in Australia it was closer to $470 a month. Our insurance also covers us for up to 90 days at a time if something happens whilst we are travelling outside Thailand. AIA, AXA, Bupa, Cigna and Thai Health are among the popular insurance groups for expats in Thailand.

Quality dental and optical care is also readily available and well below what we were paying back in Australia. A recent trip to the dentist for a check-up, clean and X-rays cost Vivien $57. The clinic was modern and well-equipped; the dentist highly professional with excellent English.

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