Government wants foreign visitors to be insured

Various state agencies have agreed in principle with the Public Health Ministry’s proposal to require foreign tourists to buy travel and health insurance before arriving in Thailand.

  • Published: 28/06/2013 at 12:48 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

The ministry on Wednesday made the proposal at a meeting with representatives from the Airports of Thailand (AoT), the Royal Thai Police and various other government ministries.

Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong, who chaired the meeting, said the ministry proposed the cost of health insurance coverage might be included in visa fees.

Pradit Sinthawanarong, Public Health Minister: State hospitals bear tourist burden

He said non-visa tourists might have to pay for their health insurance coverage at immigration checkpoints or the fees could be added to the cost of airline tickets.

Every tour agency would have to tell their foreign customers about the insurance requirements before they travel to Thailand, Dr Pradit said. He said the method of payment for the insurance would be decided at the next meeting.

Dr Pradit said the meeting agreed on setting up a sub-committee to work on the issue and decide on the level and type of insurance coverage that would be required for tourists in cases of emergency care and the return of dead bodies.

The ministry called the meeting with state agencies after the cabinet in January asked it to set up a health care system for foreigners who are not members of universal health care schemes.

The government was concerned about the financial burden on the country’s state hospitals which are having to provide free medical services to foreign tourists, Dr Pradit said.

State hospitals in popular tourist areas were shouldering much of the burden, he said.

Jetsada Jongpaiboonpattana, director of the state-owned Vachira Phuket Hospital, said the hospital spent 3 million baht last year to provide free services to foreign tourists who received medication but later claimed they had no money to pay for it.

In some cases, the AoT had to provide free flights to send sick tourists home.

The meeting also discussed health care for migrant workers and marginalised people.

Each adult migrant worker is currently required to pay 1,300 baht for one year of health insurance, he said.

The price may increase to cover additional benefits, the health promotion programme, anti-retroviral therapy and other chronic disease treatments, he said.

The ministry will seek funding to provide health care for stateless people living here, illegal migrants and displaced people, he said.

Dr Pradit said his ministry also plans to help neighbouring countries set up their own universal health care systems.

He said helping neighbours develop their own health care systems would help improve medical care in the border areas and reduce the strain on Thai hospitals located near the borders.

Representatives of the Social Development and Human Security Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Labour Ministry, Interior Ministry, Transport Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Tourism and Sports Ministry also attended the meeting on Wednesday.

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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat

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