Last Updated on by Lohanna Reis
Thinking about changing your life and living in Thailand? In search of how exactly you can get good health coverage in your new country? Then read on below for all you need to know about this important topic!
There are lots of things you need to do to prepare for your move to a new country – have a place to live, find jobs, figure out how all the paperwork works, buy your plane ticket, try learning a new language…
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that has never been colonized by a European country. In fact, in the Thai language, the name of the country is Prathet Thai, which means “land of the free”. Very appropriate! But one detail that is sometimes overlooked is making sure you have your health insurance.
But beyond talking about your options for international health insurance for your move to Thailand, we’ll first talk a bit about the structure of the Thai health system, what the difference is between travel insurance and insurance for expats, what coverage for these plans looks like, and more.
(And don’t forget to read until the end of the article to learn more about the different types of visas you can apply for to begin living, working, and studying in Thailand!)
How does the Thai healthcare system work?
No matter what country you’re moving to, it’s important that you know exactly how the medical system works.
Thailand offers one of the best healthcare services in the world in its large urban centers, but not for free. An important issue to consider is that its main tourist destinations are on the coast and in the interior of the country, far from the big cities.
Basic health care can be found in these remote places, but it is very difficult to find a professional who speaks English. For this reason, it is crucial to have good travel insurance.
Most Thais receive universal health coverage, but civil servants and their families receive health coverage through the public service welfare system. Employees of private companies, on the other hand, are generally covered by a social security system that is supported through payroll contributions.
Why do I need health insurance as an expat in Thailand?
Although Thailand has excellent public coverage, immigrants are still required to have their own private insurance, at least until they succeed in getting Thailand citizenship.
So, it’s important that you protect yourself with coverage like one of the insurance policies I talk about in the list below 🙂
But beyond being a legal requirement, an international health plan can also help make your transition to a new country much less stressful. Especially when you’re in a new and different country from your own with laws, social structures, and a language that you may not know.
Because of this, having coverage from an international health insurance plan makes sure you’re protected in any unexpected situation or emergency. Plus, there are some other benefits that you’ll get with your international plan (as I will discuss in the next section).
As an immigrant in Thailand, should I get an international health plan like the ones on the list below? Or should I get a national Thai health insurance plan?
When it comes down to it, the choice is yours. It’ll depend on your specific personal medical needs, the specific types of coverage you’re looking for, the duration of your stay in Thailand, and the available options for national plans.
Regardless, whether you choose an international health insurance policy (like those on the list below) or a public plan, you’ll have coverage that meets your needs in Thailand. But if you choose to go with an international plan, make sure to check with the Thai embassy to see what their minimum coverage requirement is.
When I lived in Thailand myself, I personally chose to get an international health plan…so I can’t speak too much on the options for public plans. But I can say that any of the companies listed below can help meet your needs.
With this in mind, here are some of the reasons that you might want to get an international health insurance plan in place of Thai public coverage:
- When it comes to your budget, international health insurance may have lower monthly costs
- International health insurance may be an easier choice if you only need coverage for a short stay in the country (not to mention it’s also a requirement for travelers who will be spending on a short period of time in the country and thus won’t qualify for a public plan anyway)
- International health insurance plans are more flexible (and this is important if you’re not yet sure how long you’ll stay in Thailand as you’ll have the ability to easily renew, extend, or cancel your policy)
- International health insurance offers you coverage in other countries, not just in Thailand (this is why these health insurance plans are called “international”)
Who do these international health insurance policies give coverage to?
The health insurance companies that I’ll list below are for the following citizens that live in Thailand as expats, immigrants, workers, or even students:
- Citizens of the European Union (Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, Belgian, Swedish, etc.)
- British (English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish)
- Kiwis (New Zealanders)
- And for citizens of almost any other country
Beyond expats/immigrants that live in Thailand, these companies also work for residents that live in:
- The United States
- Europe (the European Union and the United Kingdom)
- And for expats that live in just about any other country in the world
In general, since these health plans and companies are international, they can be used by practically anyone in practically any other country in the world since they have worldwide coverage!
Why can’t I just use travel insurance to cover me when I move to Thailand? What’s the difference between travel insurance and expat insurance, anyway?
Travel insurance is important for any trip. Not just because it will cover you in case of unexpected emergencies and medical problems, but for travel issues like lost baggage or flight cancellations as well.
But it’s important to know that travel insurance is not ideal to meet the needs of expats. Although it is possible to get a travel insurance policy that covers you long-term, these policies are made just for travelers with plans for temporary stays in a country.
The coverage given to you by travel insurance is not meant for someone with a long stay in a single country.
So, it’s very important that you choose an insurance plan that is specifically made for expats. And that’s what I’ll help you with through the list below.
What are the 7 best insurance policies for expats and immigrants in Thailand?
Finding a health plan can be stressful. So if you’re looking for help making your decision a little easier, take a look at the following table with a comparison of the companies that I’ll describe in more detail below.
This way, you can quickly see the advantages and disadvantages of each and choose the one that’s best for you!
After the table, I’ll share some more details about each of the companies, the types of plans they have, their benefits, and much more!
No matter what, the biggest tip that I can give is to get a quick quote online with each of the companies that I suggest here. It may take some time to do this, but at the end of the day, it can save you quite a lot of money!
Worldwide Medical Insurance / Comparison Chart*
Part of the table courtesy of Tokio Marine HCC
Note: This article and table were created with information that was accurate at the time of its publishing. This information is subject to changes and updates.
In my opinion, the best companies for international health insurance for expats are:
- Now Health
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
First up, we have Cigna. Cigna is an insurance company founded in the United States that also has a large presence throughout Europe. And it’s a great choice to consider for international health insurance.
With more than 6 decades of experience in the market, Cigna has worldwide recognition for its insurance plans and has more than 170 million clients around the world. Even my partner, Nikki, got a plan with Cigna herself so she was able to qualify for her Swedish resident card.
Cigna has a large variety of plans for you to choose from, including plans made specifically for immigrants (and thus will work great if you plan to live or work in Thailand).
They have both individual and family plans. One benefit of Cigna’s plans is that you can add benefits based on the specific type of medical care that you need to be covered.
You have the option to choose from their Silver, Platinum, or Gold plans, all of which provide coverage in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
If you’re looking for a cheaper insurance plan to use in Thailand, Cigna’s Close Care plan is a great option. This particular plan is the cheapest that Cigna offers since its coverage is only valid in your country of origin and the country you plan to reside in.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Customer service is available 24/7
- You have the flexibility to make alterations and tailor each plan to exactly what you need
- They have Covid-19 and PCR test coverage
- You don’t need to make an online account to get a quote
- They have a digital platform that can help you find hospitals and clinics to get care close to wherever you are
- In most cases, Cigna will pay the health provider directly without you having to go through their reimbursement system
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Cigna:
- Not all of their plans cover maternity
Table of Contents
Another company recognized worldwide in the area of international insurance is IMG. They have more than 25 years of experience and have 3 subsidiaries around the world.
IMG has many different types of plans for you to select, whether you need an individual or family plan. They also have a variety of plans made specifically for all types of travelers, immigrants included.
On their website, you’ll see that they have plans both for short trips as well as for long stays overseas of 1 year or more.
IMG’s website is intuitive and easy to navigate with filters for dates, plan duration, your destination, and much more to facilitate your search. Beyond these filters, you can also add additional personal details like your age and specific medical needs to see the best coverage options and detailed quotes.
Just pay close attention to the details for each plan since they don’t offer coverage for all age groups and don’t all cover Covid-19 needs.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Customer service is available 24/7
- Very flexible plans
- More than 17,000 in-network doctors
Cons of an international health insurance plan with IMG:
- Depending on the plan, they don’t have Covid-19 coverage
- They don’t have coverage for people 75 years and older
Now Health International’s mission is evident in its name – to provide a service that is efficient, affordable, and easily accessible. The company places great importance on building strong relationships with its customers. They aim to deliver plan information in a transparent and efficient manner, and promptly address any inquiries through their dedicated customer support team.
Now Health plans are specifically designed to meet the daily challenges faced by those living abroad. They provide guidance and ensure access to quality healthcare worldwide.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- Customized plans according to your needs
- Clear information and excellent customer service team
- Provides coverage in 194 countries and territories
- Plans with high coverage routine maternity coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Now Health:
- You must wait a 12-month grace period to use maternity coverage.
- In some procedures, it is necessary to use the company’s reimbursement system, which means that you would have to pay for your care initially
Aetna is an award winner and leader in the area of international insurance. If you’re looking for safety and credibility in your insurance choice for your move to Thailand, Aetna is a good company to consider.
Although they don’t have many plans available, the plans they do have are flexible and give you the option to add extra coverage as needed (like dental care). Their policies include coverage of up to 5 million USD, depending on the situation.
You can choose between family and individual plans. And you can also include repatriation and medical evacuation coverage.
For immigrants in a new country, I recommend the Aetna Pioneer plan. This plan has a “basic” coverage of up to 1.75 million USD. You just have to fill out the form on their website to get an exact quote and see detailed info about the available options.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Customer support available 24/7
- Maternity coverage is included
- Access to an app with all the important info you need + easy location of health services and providers
- Plans for short, medium, and long trips are available
- Pre-trip assistance with vaccines and regularly-used medications
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Aetna:
- Not many plans to choose from
- Price is above average compared to the other companies on this list
Global Underwriters is another popular company in the insurance world. They have insurance services that help expats, students, digital nomads, and immigrants with plans to start life somewhere else in the world.
For someone that’s moving to Thailand, I recommend the Diplomat Long Term or the Diplomat International Plan. Both have complete medical coverage and generally tend to include everything an expat may need in their new home.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- Up to 1 million USD in medical coverage for the two plans listed above, plus an additional 1 million USD of coverage for accidental death or dismemberment
- Customer support available 24/7
- The plans I mentioned above offer coverage for dental emergencies, medical evacuations, and the repatriation of mortal remains
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Global Underwriters:
- The Diplomat Long Term plan doesn’t support travelers in Iran, Afghanistan, or Cuba
- The Diplomat International plan doesn’t have Covid-19 coverage
- Global Underwriters doesn’t serve residents of Australia, Iran, South Dakota, Maryland, and New York
SafetyWing is a popular insurance choice for digital nomads, given that it offers health insurance plans specifically for remote workers and companies, expats, and digital nomads.
One advantage of SafetyWing is that its policies are a little more accessible than some of the others on the market. They also cover children aged 2-10 for free if their caretakers have a plan.
Each policy’s cost depends on the age of the policyholder. The cheapest plan doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, though it does have coverage of up to 250,000 USD. But you do have the freedom to add pre-existing coverage separately if you need it.
What I like most about SafetyWing is that the company gives you 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days that you use the plan in another country, such as Thailand.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Modern, intuitive website with easy access to information
- Customer service available 24/7
- 30 days of free coverage in your home country for every 90 days of coverage overseas
- They have Covid-19 coverage and for Covid-19 treatments recommended by medical specialists
Cons of an international health insurance plan with SafetyWing:
- Their plans don’t include quite as many things as the other options on the list
- The prices you see on their website don’t include taxes and fees
Foyer Global Health is often a part of the conversation when we talk about international health plans for travelers, expats, digital nomads, and immigrants.
Foyer is a company with a huge diversity in plans (perhaps the highest you’ll find on the market). And since it’s part of the larger European Foyer Group, it’s a company that can be trusted as well.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- All of the possibilities include coverage for dental appointments, surgeries, and treatments
- Customer service by email and phone available 24/7
- Offer support service for pre-trip preparations like vaccines and first aid kits
- Option to add on evacuation and repatriation coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with Foyer Global Health:
- The plan limits aren’t made very clear
GeoBlue has spent the last 20 years offering insurance plans with international health coverage.
But GeoBlue only offers insurance for citizens and residents of the United States. So if you’re not an American citizen or green card holder moving to Thailand, you can jump to the next option.
That said, GeoBlue does have health plans for many types of travelers, including expats. The Xplorer Essential is the plan that I most often recommend since it’s a plan for long stays overseas that also has unlimited coverage.
If you’re looking for a shorter plan, try the Voyager. Just fill out the form on their website or reach out to an insurance broker to get a quote or receive more detailed info about their plans.
Pros of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- App with lots of resources and telemedicine support
- Customer service available 24/7
- Some plans offer coverage for pre-existing conditions
- All of their plans have unlimited coverage
Cons of an international health insurance plan with GeoBlue:
- Only available to citizens and residents of the U.S.A.
- Plans aren’t very flexible
- You need to fill out a form or contact a broker to get more info and specific quotes
Types of visas you can apply for to work, study, and live in Thailand
If you’re planning to live in Thailand, one of your top priorities will be to do research on and then ultimately apply for the right visa.
As an expat in the country to work, your company will likely offer support with the move, including with your visa application and even with finding a new place to live.
But even with this support, it’s important to take care when you’re looking into the different types of visas you can apply for, what docs you need to submit, and the current timelines for the visas to be ready. If other members of your family will be living with you in Thailand, then you’ll also need to see what type of visas they need.
The most common types of visas used by expats in Thailand are:
- Business visa (non-immigrant B visa)
There are 2 types of business visa:
- Nonimmigrant B (Business Conductor) Visa is offered to foreigners who intend to establish or conduct business in Thailand.
Nonimmigrant B (employment) visa is given to foreigners who want to work in Thailand.
- Applicants can apply for a single-entry visa (90-day non-immigrant visa) or a multiple-entry visa (one-year non-immigrant visa).
The visa must be used within 90 days of the issue date and offers a stay of 90 days in Thai territory.
Holders of the 90-day non-immigrant temporary visa usually use the visa to enter the territory, apply for a work permit, and once the visa has expired, they can convert it into a long-term visa. , for example.
- Education Visa (non-immigrant ED visa)
The education visa is issued to people who want to take a full-time course, internship or other training programs.
Length of stay
The student visa is valid for 90 days. Before the first 90 days expire, you can extend it at the Immigration Department for one year. All those who hold this type of visa are subject to the 90-day report at the Immigration Office.
- Retirement Visa
The retirement visa is issued to foreigners aged 50 and over who intend to spend their retirement in Thailand. Therefore, with this visa you will not be able to work.
Types of retirement visas
There are two types of retirement visas that can be issued to foreigners:
- One-year retirement visa (O-A non-immigrant)
- Five-Year Retirement Visa (O-X Non-Immigrant)
The O-A visa allows you to stay in Thailand for one year and can be renewed each year.The O-X visa allows for a stay of five years and can be renewed for a maximum of 10 years.
- Smart Visa
SMART visa is a new type of visa aimed at attracting highly skilled workforce, investors, executives and budding entrepreneurs who want to work or invest in Thailand’s target industries.
SMART visa holders receive a maximum stay of four years, work permit waivers and some additional privileges.
Target industries in Thailand are:
- Rich, medical and wellness tourism
- Agriculture and robotics
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Automation and robotics
- Aviation and logistics
- Biofuels and biochemicals
- Environmental management and renewable energy
- Food for the future
- Human resource development in science and technology
- Medical Center
- State-of-the-art automotive
- Smart electronics
Types of smart visas
There are five types of smart visas, which are:
- Smart “T” (Talent) – highly qualified professionals
- Smart “I” (Investor) – investors in technology-based businesses
- Smart “E” (Executive) – Senior executives in technology-based companies
- Smart “S” (Startup Entrepreneur) – Technology-based startup entrepreneurs
- Smart “O” (Spouse and legitimate children of smart visa holders)
Don’t forget to check the requirements of each visa 😀
Here are the 7 best health insurance companies for expats and immigrants moving to Thailand:
- Now Health
- Global Underwriters
- Foyer Global Health
Moving overseas can be complicated…so I hope that this article has helped answer some of your questions about the process!
If you still have any questions about getting health insurance for your move to Thailand (or about moving overseas in general), let me know in the comment area below and I’ll get back to you!
Planning your next trip?