If you are working in Thailand, you should qualify for state-sponsored healthcare, covered by your social security payments. These payments are taken out automatically by your employer, and they usually work out to be about 5% of your salary. You will be assigned to a local public hospital where you can access healthcare. In bigger cities, you may have a choice of up to three hospitals. Once you’ve made your choice, you cannot change it for the course of the year.If you’re retired, or otherwise not working, in Thailand, you won’t qualify for state-sponsored care, and you may want to buy private insurance. Insurance is not required in Thailand, but it is a good idea. Although healthcare costs are lower than in some countries, such as the United States, treatment for accidents and illnesses can still be rather expensive.
If you have Thai citizenship, you’ll receive free healthcare (except on Saturdays) at public hospitals, with your universal coverage health card, issued by the National Health Security Office. Thailand instituted universal healthcare in 2002, administered by the Department of Medical Services within the Ministry of Public Health, and pays for it with tax revenue.
Even if you do have access to public healthcare, you may want to pursue treatment in the private system. Government hospitals can be crowded and less up-to-date than their private counterparts. If you do go to a public hospital, you’ll fare best if you speak Thai or can take someone with you who can. You may have a long wait, but costs will be significantly cheaper than in a private hospital. However, in a private hospital, you’ll find English-speaking doctors and specialists and top-of-the-line equipment.
Is primary healthcare available?
Thailand’s healthcare system isn’t staffed by general practitioners (GPs) or family doctors, like in some Western countries. Instead, you’ll go directly to a hospital or clinic for check-ups or consultations on specific issues or illnesses, and they may refer you to another specialist, depending on your situation or diagnosis. You should be able to walk right in and be seen; while surgeries are done on a scheduled basis, regular consultations often don’t need an appointment.
Because there are no primary care physicians in Thailand, most doctors work out of multiple treatment centres, moving between clinics or hospitals depending on their schedules. Keep this in mind if you have a condition or issue that will require multiple visits.
You’ll need to show proof of health insurance or proof of sufficient funds before you can get treatment. Some hospitals even require a deposit before you can receive medical treatment. Unlike in some Western countries, Thai hospitals will not treat non-citizen patients who cannot afford it.
You may be able to get treatment at a pharmacy. Many pharmacists are able to give medical advice in English. Most pharmacies are usually open seven days a week (though with limited hours on Sundays). You can buy some medications directly from the pharmacy without needing a prescription. Keep in mind that prescription costs will be much lower at pharmacies located outside of hospital grounds. Therefore, if you have medicine that you need to take after a surgery or treatment, consider getting the script filled outside of the hospital.
Examples of private healthcare fees
Expats who plan to live in Thailand long-term will find that healthcare prices vary wildly, depending on what level of care you need and where you are located. Keep in mind that most high-quality hospitals are located in or around big cities like Bangkok. If you’re located in a remote area and need to be transported into the capital, you might be looking at medical evacuation charges of around 350,000 baht or $11,000. This is sometimes covered by insurance, but it is not always.
An annual checkup or regular visit at a private hospital might cost around 3,000 baht or $95. If you stay overnight, you’ll pay at least 10,000 baht or $317 a day, and if you need treatment in the ICU, you could pay up to 100,000 baht or $3,127 a day.
A normal birth with vaginal delivery costs around 63,000 baht or $2,000, whereas a Cesarean birth costs around 94,000 baht or $3,000.
Treatment for a bacterial infection in your GI tract might cost you around 4,700 baht or $150; treatment for dengue fever could cost you up to 80,000 baht or $2,500; and treatment for a motorcycle accident could cost you up to two million baht or $63,000.
Average costs of major surgeries
Thailand is the third most popular country in the world for medical tourism. Visitors from the United States and some European countries may find that certain surgeries and treatments are significantly cheaper in Thailand than in their home countries. These surgeries are almost always done in private hospitals, where doctors are often trained abroad and speak very good English.
For instance, Bumrungrad International Hospital, which is located in Bangkok, is often rated as the top international hospital in the world, and it sees more foreign patients than any other hospital in the world.
Take a look at these average fees for common surgeries and procedures, including cardiac procedures, orthopedic surgery, cosmetic surgeries, and eye surgeries:
• Heart bypass surgery – US$15,000
• Heart valve replacement – US$17,000
• Hip replacement – US$17,000
• Knee replacement – US$14,000
• Gastric bypass – US$17,000
• Cataract removal – US$2,000
• LASIK – US$2,000
• Spinal fusion – US$9,500
• Facelift – US$5,000
• Breast augmentation – US$3,500
• Liposuction – US$2,000
• Nose reshaping – US$1,500
Costs will vary depending on the hospital chosen, the length of stay, and any complications, but the above estimates should give you a good picture of how much health procedures cost in Thailand.