There are more than 1,000 hospitals in Thailand, so as a retiree in Thailand you will not be left without medical care, with the level of healthcare generally of good to excellent quality.
Thailand has been ranked within the top 50 best healthcare systems worldwide by the World Health Organisation. This is also reflected by the wellbeing of the population: among developing countries Thailand has one of the highest life expectancy rates.
As with many SE Asian countries Thailand offers both a public and private healthcare system.
Public Healthcare System
Public hospitals in Thailand have of relatively good standard of care. The public system is open to all expats, but if you are not eligible for admission into the national healthcare system, you will need to pay for the treatment in public facilities. However, the cost of treatment in a public hospitals are low.
Public hospitals are much less expensive than their private counterparts, but they are generally more crowded and sometimes less well equipped for more serious ailments. 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..
Private hospitals in Thailand are first class, with many seeming like first class hotels. They often employ western trained professionals and utilise up-to-date and ultra-modern medical equipment and technology. The staff are very efficient, and waiting times for consultations, treatments and operations are very short.
The expat community generally chooses the private system as they are still able to get great value for money, with costs being a fraction of private hospital fees in western countries. This allows them to also choose the facility where they wish to be treated and they can be assured of English speaking staff.
If you do not have international private health insurance, you will invariably be asked to pay a deposit on admission to the private hospital service.
International Private Health Insurance
International health insurance is the most suitable type of medical cover for an expat. Different international private health policies are designed to either cover essential healthcare needs if you are on a budget, or higher levels of protection if you want to cover a wider range of conditions.
The main benefits are:
- Your choice of hospital and doctor
- Full or partial reimbursement of medical costs
- May chose which country you can be treated (within the limits of the ‘zone’ covered by the policy)
- If you leave Thailand your insurance policy may be able to follow you.
The minimum type of cover recommended is for hospitalisation and evacuation to a country of your choice – even to your home country. However, due to the low cost of treatment in Thailand many expats feel that self-insuring is a better option, and rely on inexpensive accident-insurance policy as their primary cover.
You do not need to visit a hospital for many common ailments. In Thailand, pharmacies are often the first point of call. Pharmacy staff are generally well trained, and can dispense remedies that would need a prescription in other parts of the world. This network of well-trained pharmacists ensures that the public healthcare system deals with more serious ailments and procedures.
Thailand has become a top destination for medical tourism. Each year more than 1.2 million visitors take advantage of the low cost and high quality of medical treatment in Thailand.
Its private hospitals are the main facilitator for this medical tourism boom, and the cost savings are generally about 40-60 percent of out of pocket expenses compared to other western countries. Specialties include cosmetic surgery, orthopaedics, cardiology, IVF medicine, spine surgery and dentistry.