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Traveling to Thailand While 50+? You May Need Health Insurance First

Traveling to Thailand While 50+? You May Need Health Insurance First
Jackie Reddy

As of 31st October, all long-term tourists to Thailand aged over 50, who are applying for a Non-Immigrant O-A Visa (Long Stay) from the Thai Embassy and Consulates located in their own home countries, will now need to provide proof that they have medical coverage. The Non-Immigrant O-A Visa is often referred to as a “retirement visa”. These measures have been implemented, say government officials, to alleviate the financial burden of older tourists who stay in Thailand for long periods, fall ill, get treatment but can’t pay for it. However, the average tourist over 50 traveling to Thailand for an extended holiday–entering on a visa exemption, a VOA, or a tourist visa–has no such requirement to demonstrate proof of health insurance.

This new governmental policy comes right on the heels of the Trump administration’s move to place health insurance requirements on would-be immigrants, a policy that has been temporarily blocked by a US judge.

As of the end of last month, tourists to Thailand aged over 50 will need to prove that they have medical cover, The South China Morning News reports. This legislation came into force on October 31st and, according to Sathit Pitutecha, the Thai deputy minister of public health, has been put into place so that the nation’s government is not required to cover any of their medical expenses of travelers in this “risky” age group staying in Thailand for the maximum period of one year.

Currently, say officials, Thailand pays around 500 million baht (US$16.49 million) per year in medical bills for foreigners over 50. Says Pitutecha, “Hospitals have to treat them because of human rights reasons, but when we ask them to pay us back, they can’t. These costs become burdensome for the public health ministry, so we pushed for the insurance policy.”

What else do you need to know before you go to Thailand? Head to the FlyerTalk Thailand forum for answers to all kinds of questions and advice from where to find the best beaches in Thailand, to what to do about all the medication you’ll be taking with you.


H/T: Thank you to Diplomatico for contributing to the story in the comments section. We’ve updated the article with your comments.

View Comments (9)


  1. drvannostren

    November 11, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    I like it. I think people should be responsible for their own health care outside their own borders. As a Canadian with social health, I have no problem subsidizing my own people’s health care, but to be doing it for tourists like Thailand is, that seems crazy to me.

  2. Diplomatico

    November 11, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    You’ve omitted a couple of key details that could mislead travelers. The proof of insurance requirement only applies to travelers over 50 who are applying for a non-Immigrant O-A visa from the Thai embassy or consulate located in their own home countries. It’s commonly referred to as a “retirement visa”.

    The average tourist over 50 traveling to Thailand for an extended holiday – entering on a visa exemption, a VOA, or a tourist visa – has no such requirement to demonstrate proof of health insurance.

  3. wolfie52

    November 11, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Really? You travel overseas and can’t (don’t) have health insurance? Stay home and spend your money on priorities like food, shelter, savings for emergencies/retirement and health care! Travel is a LUXURY and should be last on the list. There are plenty on places in the US cheap or free to travel to.

  4. htb

    November 11, 2019 at 9:47 pm

    “Long term tourist” and “up to one year”. Isn’t something missing here?

  5. edgewood49

    November 12, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    I agree with Diplomatico I wish these bloggers would do a fact check and or have direct experience. I am over 50 and was based at Udorn RTAFB none of us visiting for reunions EVER had to produce health insurance certificates, YES if your applying for a “retirement visa” like most countries in the world have to produce certain documents providing your ability to “take care of yourself”.


  6. Scottyrocket

    November 12, 2019 at 2:14 pm

    If you’ve seen some of the dead beat foreigners retiring in Thailand you’d wonder what the government took so long to implement the changes. They should also check the foreign beg packers for insurance and proof of funds.

  7. exit2dos

    November 13, 2019 at 5:47 am

    You must use one of 8 Thai insurance companies. None of which insure anyone over 70. Some over 65. The premiums are sky high as are the deductibles. There is a gov’t form which must be filled in by your foreign insurance company, which they are loathe to do. Travelex outright refused to fill it in, so far. I doubt Thai claim figures and think the short time tourist rarely carries insurance and they are being counted.. Anyway, Thailand makes a good part of its GDP on tourism. An emergency room will not accept anyone without insurance or a good reserve on their credit card. It’s a big scam to make the Thai insurance companies Millions. I wouldn’t even trust those companies to pay a claim.

  8. cr34102

    November 13, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    South China Morning POST, not News. Even your link is for SCMP.

  9. Dalo

    November 15, 2019 at 10:42 am

    I was treated at Bumrungrad (BKK) without insurance or having to produce a credit card. I did pay with card at the end of the visit . I have seen all manner of westerner bums in Thailand so I don’t completely blame the government there for enacting this requirement

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