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Covering Thailand medical costs for the self-employed

Global citizens and freelance work: In 2018 these two things are paired together on a frequent basis. There are a couple of different factors that have led to this. First, the world is more globalized than ever before, and the planet’s workforce is now more mobile than at any other time in history. While the borders between nations are still strictly defined, for diasporas of working people all over the world, they are becoming increasingly blurred.

Secondly, we are now living in a ‘gig economy’, where a large portion of professionals in developed countries no longer work jobs the way they would have only a decade or two ago. Now it is incredibly common for people in all sorts of service industries to freelance and earn their keep by working on a number of smaller contracts throughout the course of the year.

Say what you will about the downfall of the 40 hour work week, the full time job, and/or having a pension to address your retirement, but this article will actually be focusing on another aspect of working for one’s self: healthcare costs and how best to address them.

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Without a fulltime job, or an employer that provides it, it is highly likely that people participating in the gig economy will be without group health insurance coverage. What does this mean for self-employed people in Thailand, and what is the best way to ensure that they never become bogged down by burdensome medical debt? Read on to find out more.

Thailand healthcare

Those living in Thailand for a lengthy period of time no doubt are familiar with the local healthcare system. However, new arrivals may benefit from an intro at this point. The Thailand healthcare system is a universal healthcare system that currently provides free or heavily subsidized healthcare to over 95% of the country’s population.

Each person living in Thailand is assigned to a particular local hospital in their vicinity that is their primary source of subsidized care. When a person needs care of any kind, they must report to their designated hospital, or else risk having to pay full price for their care. Of course, the regular cost of healthcare in public hospitals in Thailand is still going to be less than the country’s private hospitals, but there are still issues to be concerned with here, such as the long wait times, impersonal doctor visits, and lesser medical technology that are typically seen in the world’s public healthcare facilities. Not to mention that much of the staff will not have been trained internationally, so concerns over the quality of communication in such facilities are valid.

Private hospitals, or international hospitals, on the other hand, have the best quality of care that a person can receive from a Thai hospital. Additionally, much of the staff in these hospitals are trained abroad, and such hospitals go the extra mile to make international patients more at ease by communicating with them in their native language. These costly facilities will not be part of the public healthcare system, but they remain the top choice for expats living in Thailand. In fact, the amazing amenities provided by international hospitals in Thailand have led to the country becoming one of the global leaders in medical tourism.

Self-employment in Thailand

So who can even legally be self-employed in Thailand? Well, any Thai citizen is, of course, able to work for themselves. Can a non-citizen simply move to the country and begin working with a tourist visa, though? Unfortunately, the answer is no. While a person is able to stay up to six months in Thailand while visiting on a tourist visa, they are not legally allowed to earn income in the country while there on this type of visa.

The question then becomes, is there another type of visa that can be obtained that will allow a person to work for themselves? Not really. If a person has obtained a visa to work in Thailand, it will have been sponsored by an existing company in the country that the visa holder will have to work for, lest they lose their visa and are forced to leave the country.

The other option available to expats in Thailand that wish to be self-employed is to open their own company here. This is no easy feat for many foreign nationals, though. All documentation for the establishment of a Thailand company must be submitted in Thai. There are also rules in place that restrict the types of businesses that foreign nationals are allowed to own. However, if all necessary hoops are jumped through (such as hiring up to four Thai nationals in a new company), and a person has invested enough money into the company, they can then hire themselves with their own company if their work permit application is accepted; thereby earning the right to be self-employed in Thailand, even as an expat.

Health insurance differences for the self-employed

What’s the difference between health insurance that a self-employed person might get versus the insurance that would be provided by an employer? The chief differences lie in the fact that a self-employed person will have to obtain an individual private health insurance policy, while a person employed by a business is likely to be insured by a group health insurance policy.

One of the biggest differences between these types of plans is pre-existing conditions. While individual policies will likely exclude any pre-existing conditions from coverage at the time of purchase, many group health insurance policies will actually cover pre-existing conditions. This is not always the case, however, so those with group health insurance coverage should be sure to check their policy documentation for plan specifics.

Group health insurance plans, on the other hand, can also restrict the coverage that an employee has, versus the coverage they could get if they purchased their own plan. Oftentimes group health insurance plans will limit the healthcare providers that policyholders will be covered at. As well, group health insurance plans may leave out benefits that employees would like to have, such as maternity insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and more.

Similarly, group health insurance plans are mostly local in nature, meaning that they will not provide coverage for medical care received while outside of Thailand. However, there are international health insurance plans available to individuals that will allow policyholders to receive care in any hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office in virtually any country around the world. So, self-employed people actually have a lot more say in the insurance benefits they receive.

Finally, those working for an employer do have the added benefit of the company’s workmen’s compensation insurance. This will provide payment to any employee that becomes injured while on the job. For this reason, self-employed people will want to find out more about loss of income insurance. This type of insurance will pay them in the event that they are physically unable to work for a substantial period of time. There are also accidental death and dismemberment insurance, as well as critical illness insurances available that will distribute large lump sum payments in the event the policyholder becomes disabled, or develops a serious, life-changing ailment.

Any questions?

If you are working for yourself in Thailand, now that you have all of the above information, you may rightfully feel that you should look into purchasing private health insurance. This can be a daunting task, however, as there are many different insurance companies in Thailand, and each one of them has a number of different plans and options to choose from. This means that finding the best possible plan for your specific needs can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Not to worry. There is help available that can minimize the amount of effort you personally have to put into your search for an ideal health insurance plan. Working with the helpful insurance experts at Pacific Prime Thailand will provide you with just that! With just a few details about you and your medical needs, our advisors can quickly present you with a comparison of plans available from Thailand’s top insurance providers. Not only that, they will also give you a free price quote, and answer any additional questions you may have. There’s no additional charge to get assistance from Pacific Prime, so please feel free to contact us today!

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