BANGKOK – As the debacle over mandatory health insurance for expats staying in Thailand on Non-Immigrant O-A “Retirement” visas continues to unfold, Bangkok Insurance Brokers Co Ltd (BIB) Managing Director Eric Dohlon, based in Phuket, is continuing his push for healthcare policy coverage for all retirees in Thailand – and he is making good progress.
BIB cooperates with 18 Thai-registered insurance companies, Mr Dohlon explained.
“We will initially choose one insurance company to issue the group policy. When there is sufficient volume of members, more companies will be asked to join,” he said.
Mr Dohlon told The Phuket News last Friday (May 17) that he now has one company ready and more than 2,000 signatures from potential applicants to support the policy, which aims to overcome one of the biggest obstacles older people face when seeking health insurance: pre-existing conditions.
“Pre-existing conditions is normal for people reaching retirement years,” Mr Dohlon said. “Somewhere along the way most older people have suffered one medical condition or another, and this is taken into account when insurance companies calculate their premiums.”
For people in advanced years, blood pressure conditions were among the most common, he pointed out.
The risk of not declaring pre-existing conditions can be critical, Mr Dohlon noted. “It does not have to be related in order for the insurance provider to void the policy, and this can happen at the most inopportune time,” he said.
A retiree being taken to hospital for injuries sustained in a motorbike accident might see their policy coverage cancelled literally while they are at the hospital awaiting medical care, all because the retiree did not declare something as simple as high blood pressure in their policy application, Mr Dohlon explained by example.
Mr Dohlon pointed out that all seven companies offering policies vetted and approved by the Office of the Insurance Commission to support the new health-insurance requirement all require applicants to detail their pre-existing medical conditions in order for coverage to be approved.
The policies are being offered through a special website set up at longstay.tgia.org.
Since the announcement, the race to provide health insurance coverage to expat retirees is on, Mr Dohlon noted. “There are at least 10 other companies waiting for their policies to be approved so they can be added to the website,” he said.
STEP BY STEP
Mr Dohlon’s approach is a step-by-step solution, he explained.
“This is the only way this can be solved,” he said.
“First, I need to get a quote from an insurance company. Thai Health Insurance Co Ltd has offered me the best conditions so far. They are offering me a discounted premium, based on the total number of group members,” he explained, noting that the larger the group, the higher the premium savings.
“Second, I have to collect at least 100 applications, then I’ve got my group policy started, and then I can then I add people in ones, twos and threes – but I need the first 100 to start the policy,” Mr Dohlon explained.
“Over 2,000 persons have submitted their names confirming an interest in joining this group policy. After the total number of group members reach 500 persons, we can negotiate more favorable conditions for the group members, including covering certain medical conditions that will normally be excluded from cover,” Mr Dohlon said.
“Then high blood pressure will be covered, diabetes will be covered, and so on,” he added.
The need to policies to includes pre-existing conditions is vital, concurs Swedish retiree Bo Jonsson, who lives in Phuket.
Mr Jonsson is already at the forefront of the push for the Swedish government to provide at least state-subsidised healthcare insurance for expat retirees in Thailand to the same level of coverage that the retirees are entitled to in Sweden and while living anywhere in Europe. As such, Mr Jonsson serves as Chair of the Thailand Federation of Swedish Associations, known simply “SAMS”, the acronym for its name in Swedish.
Health insurance premiums skyrocket for elderly people seeking, and pre-existing conditions is the most important, Mr Jonsson said plainly, pointing out that one insurance company would only offer coverage at B148,000 each for himself and his wife – for just one year.
“That was four years ago, when I was 80, and so far for nothing. Why would we spend this on just one year when we can put this much money aside each year so it is there when we need it?” he asked.
To this, Mr Dohlon offered another potential solution: credit cards.
“Banks love credit cards, and I will be approaching several major banks to ask if they are interested in creating specific types of credit cards to help solve this problem,” he said.
“Under the new credit cards, people will be able to deposit B440,000 in a fixed account with a credit card issued linked specifically to that account, with the credit cards only valid at hospitals,” he explained.
“That way your money will be sitting in a fixed-deposit account, earning the best money it can while in Thailand, and you will be covered. Now doesn’t that make sense?
“And that’s just one solution. There are other alternatives,” he added.
Regarding future expansion of the proposed health policy itself, Mr Dohlon pointed out that once the policy was created, it could be further expanded to cover people in higher age brackets.
“When the group membership grows, we can negotiate to increase age limits. Both increasing the age limit on application and renewals,” he added.
“An important feature of all Thai Health Insurance policies is that they are valid worldwide, not just Thailand only. Even the cheapest health insurance policy sold in Thailand is valid worldwide.
“Details of the group health policy will be posted on our website ASAP (insurance-in-thailand.com) and emails sent to all persons that confirmed their interest in joining the group,” he said.