Elderly expats in Thailand furious over accusations of cheating on medical bills

Elderly expats in Thailand furious over accusations of cheating on medical bills

Elderly expats in Thailand furious over accusations of cheating on medical bills

Older expats in Thailand are still furious over visa requirement changes and compulsory private healthcare insurance.

It’s impossible to tell how many potential expat retirees will go back to the drawing board and choose another lifestyle destination due to the negative publicity the Kingdom’s immigration authority is generating by changing the rules by which tens of thousands of older expats have lived since their arrival in the former Land of Smiles. Those with friends who also happen to be visa agents are already reporting a mass exodus due to the changed financial requirements, and social media is having its day as many more post their feelings of having had enough.

One local English language newspaper quotes the Ministry of Health chief stating expats on the so-called retirement visa have more health problems than any other expat category, possibly forgetting that expats married to Thai wives are almost invariably in the retirement age group and are subject to the same health problems as single retirees. However, these expats are on marriage visas and therefore not affected by the health insurance requirement.

The official also stated expats living on the retirement visa are the chief offenders as regards leaving medical treatment bills unpaid due to lack of funds. Obviously, no proof has been given to support this conclusion, with the majority of expats believing the possibly exaggerated amounts quoted are mainly down to tourists and expat workers from neighbouring countries.

It’s difficult if not impossible to calculate the numbers of expats who’ve already left or who are preparing to leave – not because they cannot afford the changes but because, for them, the dream has died and they simply don’t wish to deal with any more uncertainty as regards their status, especially if they’ve lived in Thailand for a decade or more. A quote further down the report may give hope to a few, as it states the official as saying those expatriates unable to get insurance either due to their advanced age or definite health risks from pre-existing conditions may be asked to deposit set amounts in a Thai bank account, thus leaving their monthly pension income as living money.

However, these and other retirees are exactly the same people invited to Thailand on specific retirement visas by the government, in order to have them spend their ‘golden years’ savings and pensions on property and lifestyle without having to work. Perhaps it’s not yet been realised by the authorities that older people can see through these types of fake strategy simply because they’ve a lifetime of experience. Other options mentioned are reciprocal agreements with expats’ home country governments covering medical costs in the same way as do EU member states for their citizens.

Perhaps it’s time for the Thai government to realise retirement is simply a form of long-term tourism which brings in revenues both to local people as well as to the country’s overall economy and is therefore far more reliable than hordes of Chinese on cheap package tours. Finding flimsy excuses for labelling elderly expats on retirement visas as cheats and frauds, thus forcing them to buy Thailand-based healthcare insurance, isn’t the way to keep the money train running.

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