Thailand To Add Mandatory Health Insurance Fee For Tourists

Filed Under: Thai

Thailand’s Tourism Ministry Secretary said today that Thailand plans to add a mandatory health insurance fee for all foreign visitors.

While an exact timeline and price hasn’t yet been revealed, the official said that the plan is for this to be rolled out within about six months, and that the fee could be around 100 Thai Baht (a little over 3USD).

This fee would be in addition to the visa fees that Thailand charges visitors from many countries. It’s not clear whether visitors covered by their own insurance policy would still have to buy this one.

Thailand has about 38 million foreign visitors a year, so this would raise about 3.8 billion Baht, or about 120 million USD, per year.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that such a concept has been proposed, and they’ve been shot down in the past. Perhaps it will be different this time.

The reason for this proposal? Thailand’s government has been spending as much as 300 million Baht per year on healthcare and even corpse transportation for foreign visitors — eek. Frankly that’s lower than I would have expected.

This proposal would get them more than ten times the amount they’re currently spending on healthcare, for foreigners, but they’d also be getting insurance for everyone, so…

As Thailand’s Tourism Minister explains:

“After this law is enacted, the Thai government can buy insurance to cover foreign tourists without interfering with Thai nationals’ tax money. Each year, the state has to bear the cost of emergency vehicles, medical treatment and transport of bodily remains.

Whenever we try to bill someone, no one would pay.”

Bottom line

This proposal seems entirely reasonable, and paying an extra ~3USD per visit shouldn’t significantly impact tourism. I’m trying to find the polite way to say this, but Thailand certainly does attract quite a few “adventurous” tourists, and there are even TV shows about foreigners doing stupid things in Thailand and ending up in hospitals. So given the type of tourists they’re attracting, this seems logical to me.

If they do implement this, I at least hope they make the logistics of this easy. Immigration queues at Bangkok Airport can be really long, so I hope they don’t make people line up at yet another separate counter to buy this, before even going to the regular immigration counter.

What do you make of Thailand implementing a mandatory healthcare fee for tourists?

  1. If they are going to do it, they should just add it into airfares as a departure tax.

  2. Completely reasonable. First I thought they should just have airlines charge the fee into the airfare for any flight arriving into the country. Then I thought about people that are just transiting on separate itineraries. Hopefully they can come up with a way to pay this online before we arrive and receive something we can show to immigration. While at the same time having a station on arrival you can line up and buy it. Having everyone wait in another line to buy this on arrival is gonna suck.

  3. @ Ben — For $3, I hope they just add a tax to airfare. To do anything else would make no sense. To those who wish to exempt the tax, I hope you have better things to do with your time than applying for a $3 tax exemption. Good to know that collecting medical bills is difficult. I always wondered…

  4. Lived in Thailand for over 3 years now, I’m surprised this hasn’t been mandated sooner.


  5. I agree with @Gene. A $US3 tax exemption is ridiculous. Opposing taxes for the hell of it even when they make sense.

  6. This would be justified if the amount collected was in line with the amount actually spent. But if they’re planning on collecting more than 10X the amount spent on foreigner health cover, then this reeks of a tax grab and the “health insurance” line is just a way to make it more politically palatable to foreign tourists. Judging by the approving comments though, it seems to have worked.

  7. There’s hundreds of thousands of middle aged men (with little money) from the US, Europe, and Australia who move to Thailand each year for “retirement”. While there, they spend all their money on women and booze. Inevitably, they end up in the hospital and have no money to pay their expenses. This is the bigger problem and another law was just enacted to deal with them. I guess the regular tourist is collateral damage for these heathens.

  8. Whether it’s a tax grab or actually for healthcare, Thailand has all the right in the world to raise taxes on tourists if they so desire. If you don’t like it, don’t go there! That being said, I do hope they use this for health insurance.

  9. If you don’t like it, don’t go there is right. I always buy travel health insurance whenever I go overseas just in case. Last time it was 45 bucks for a month long trip and the coverage is excellent. Better safe than sorry.

  10. This comes up every year. While it is crazy for people to go to Thailand without insurance, it is quite common. Thailand is a very dangerous place for unworldly, inexperienced tourists, especially those looking for a wild time….One of the most dangerous places on earth.
    The Thais will find a way to siphon funds from the scheme; the return to health care providers won’t be anything like 100%. The situation with fees and taxes on air tickets is germane: Thailand has the highest in the whole region, and yet provides abysmal service at airports. Where does the money go? ( a rhetorical question as the answer is universally understood). Expect the same with this initiative.

  11. @James Osborne
    No, that’s not right: the main problem is not with those foreigners with residency ( and your characterisation of them is grossly oversimplified) but rather those who take ill on vacation or are injured in some way. Usually backpackers, who ‘do a runner’ without paying the bill. It can be tens of thousands $$$. It became such a problem that some hospitals won’t treat without an upfront payment…and patients are shuffled off to public hospitals ( and while that’s not so bad in Bangkok, in the regional areas it can be very grim indeed.

  12. They already have this in place in Belarus. Upon arrival, you stop by a kiosk first to buy your certificate (~USD$2), then you go through passport control The only exemption is if you have a proof of insurance (provided when you apply for a visa or at checkpoint), or if you are a citizen from a member of CIS state, Russian Federation, or Turkmenistan,

  13. A country run by morons and more anti-foreigner legislation If this does get passed you can be sure it will be a logistical pain in the ass.

    Unfortunately I am stuck here for the next nine months with work. When I re-enter the country now, I am supposed to report to immigration within 24 hours. My landlord then has 24 hours to report to immigration otherwise I am fined 1000 baht. Already been fined 1000 baht renewing a work permit, as my landlord wouldn’t send the documentation required of him on time.

    Slightly off topic rant but while Thailand is a great country in many ways it is extremely xenophobic, though many foreigners behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.

  14. The 38 million foreign visitors Thailand gets in a year are bringing billions of USD to the Thailand economy. Of course, there is some cost associated with that because the tourists are using the same public infrastructure (roads, airports, parks, police protection, etc. and yes, healthcare). The actual medical/body transportation expenses of <$1/tourists sound sufficiently low to me. This sounds more like a political play to grab some money and then spend on something else. I was always wondering where 200 Baht foreign bank ATM fee goes… Unfortunately, this will continue to spread around the world as we see "tourist" taxes to pop up everywhere.

  15. Tourists are easy to tax because they can’t vote, most don’t spend much time in the country and most won’t notice the taxes that are embedded in a myriad of fees. Tourists in most jurisdictions directly pay all or a combination of visa fees, hotel taxes, sales taxes, airport user fees, fees embedded in airline tickets and inflated prices for certain goods and services. In the case of Thailand, I presume the collections of these fees are already far in excess of associated monetary costs ranging from healthcare, policing to infrastructure. Of course, it’s absolutely Thailand’s prerogative to raise taxes where they want. But, I don’t buy at all that this is specifically about medical costs. And yes, we should all be travelling with medical and evacuation cover when overseas.

  16. A $3.00 fee for medical insurance is very cheap. For me to complain upon choosing to visit Thailand is stupidity. Try visiting America. That got fees and surcharges for everything. The $4.50 cup of coffee was invented here.

  17. Thai health insurances are a sham, this is just a trick to steal tourist money by some incompetent official. Beside I’ve got a REAL health insurance that actually pays out when you need it, not a Thai fake ‘insurance’.

  18. $3 isn’t much but…

    Tourists aren’t leeches like they seem to imply. Tourists spend and inject money into the local economy, so it’s not like they’re not paying for health care indirectly.

  19. Thailand charging foreigners for the expenses they cause… reasonable and sensible.

    USA citizens meekly inquiring if they really need to be on the hook for everyone rando that stumbles across the border… Literally Hitler!!!

    Not saying that is Lucky, but it does seem to be the world today.

  20. @Laurence Wheeler, exactly! I’m sick of hearing Americans complain about minor taxes and fees in other countries when you have to add taxes, surcharges, and now the lovely “resort/destination/whatever fees” on everything in the States. The thing is they just pay it without even thinking about it. Oh and tips too…

  21. @DaKine oh, no, talking sense about issues is a quick way to be marked as a troublemaker

  22. Immigration lines long? Don’t you get the fast lane with your premium ticket? I’m sure you’re not flying economy.
    Or are you just looking out for the “little man”?

  23. Not an issue. The current insurance covers 100% internationally additionally. Proving insurance coverage is difficult at best. Thailand is an extraordinary tourist stop. The price is right and the world is at the doorstep. Few issues with drugs or alcohol and the locals are friendly enough. A relative bargain.

  24. Thailand also requires a mandatory health insurance for retiring sexpats— long overdue!

  25. You don’t see any problem with charging 12 times more than is needed for delinquent hospital bills or repatriation? In Thailand, ‘programs’ like this are simply schemes for corrupt government officials to line their pockets. Tourism accidents are part of the ordinary cost of doing business for the host country. And good luck collecting on this insurance policy. Who and what is covered? Hospitals won’t even let you through the door there without a credit card. You’d be denied service. This is phony as can be. Let them list the coverages and which hospitals accept this policy. That will never happen. Thailand already collects a 700 baht ($21USD) departure tax on international airline tickets. Why not use some of that money? It’s in addition to regular airline taxes, fuel taxes, etc. All this change is about is putting money in the generals pockets for second, third and fourth wives, luxury watches and foreign travel. Don’t let the most corrupt nation in Southeast Asia fool you. The PM of Malaysia is on trial for stealing $700 million USD directly from government coffers and Malaysia is 10 spots better on the global corruption index than Thailand.

  26. Even though we purchase travel insurance and have emergency care worldwide through our USA based insurance, I applaud the Thai government for doing this. Far too many people, both young and old come to Thailand without the funds to pay for emergency care. It’s not fair that Thai’s are paying for the deadbeats’ medical care.

  27. Thailand by enforcing safety standards could drastically reduce the number of foreigners needing medical services. I don’t think it has a lot to do with the ” type of tourists they’re attracting”. Tourists are much more likely to need medical services in Thailand than in many countries, because of these lax safety standards. Thailand is ranked the deadliest country in the world for motorcycle accidents. There are unlicensed drivers and guides all over the place.

  28. Am very curious how they collect those fees. Hope it will not be as chaotic as collecting litter fees for tourists arriving on boats at Phi phi island!
    The best option will be to include on tickets prices on for flights ending in Thailand. I hate to stay on another long line after a transpacific flight.

  29. For those having problem with just approx 3 bucks increase, What about the Thai’s gov force everyone to apply for a visa to enter the country which could be as high as… let’s say 60 Euro (like the EU charge for a visa to enter EU member countries). Also, force you to buy tourist insurance from your country which must cover every day of your stay (which could cause another 50-60 Euro). Then apply Hotel’s tax based on number of night you are in the country So that only those with real $$$ to spend would go to Thailand. FYI, Thai people have to do more than that if they want to enter the EU members countries.

    I think the 3 bucks is really nothing. You pay more than that buying a big mac set or a cup of coffee at the Starbucks!

  30. I think this is fair. No country wants to make international headlines when some fat foreign tourist (yea I cant imagine us Americans being fat right?) keels over and needs a bypass but has no health insurance so they end up fixing them but then the tourist complains of a huge charge for staying alive (same thing would happen in the USA if no health insurance). Im amazed its only $3. I do like building it into departing airfare. People are bent out of shape over a $3 fee but will pay for a $500 ticket. Incidentally I think we need mandatory MAJOR MEDICAL coverage in the US (ie government steps up and pays the bill if over 20K in cost). This is not the same as mandatory health insurance, and yes a tax would pay for it, maybe a flat 2% of income. It would keep near fatal illness from bankrupting people.

  31. Reading these replies makes one think every foreign traveler arrives and departs Thailand by plane.
    What is the plan for those who arrive via land or sea ? Report to the airport to pay the tax ?

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