Monday, July 22, 2019

A pernicious New Year gift to long-term expats

Jan 01. 2019
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Re: “Move to make health insurance mandatory for long-stay visas”, Around Thailand, December 24.

Just before Christmas, it was announced that the government intends to enrich the Thai health insurance industry at the expense of long-term expat residents. Amendments to the Immigration Act are being drafted by a group that includes the Office of Insurance Commission, the Thai General Insurance Association and the Thai Life Assurance Association, which will force us to take out health cover. Why are these vested interests determining government policy? Why aren’t the primary stakeholders, ie, long-term expats, being consulted? And what have we done to deserve this punishment? This smells to me like typical crony politics aimed at enriching a favoured business sector.

As anyone of advanced years can attest, health insurance becomes unaffordable due to the compounding of medical and age inflation. My premiums escalated at an annual average of 12 per cent until I blew the whistle in 2008. By that time, the renewal, almost Bt200,000, could have paid for an annual hip replacement. Since then, I have put that same amount of money on deposit every year, and despite an operation in 2014 that cost more than a new pickup truck, I still have a million baht in the kitty, not to mention a huge saving in unpaid premiums.

As Barry Kenyon (December 25) points out, we are awaiting details of the amendments. Those on retirement visas have to show Bt800,000 in the bank for each renewal - will they also have to take out health insurance? Or will they be allowed a “grandfathering” exemption to continue the status quo? Sacot Pippen (Nation Facebook, same date) rightly demands that we elderly folk should be allowed to self-insure and pay as we go, as we both do. 

It is unconscionable to upset the financial affairs of retirees, who have transferred their capital to this country, who have organised their health affairs responsibly, and who may be in no position to accommodate a pernicious change in the rules at such a late age. I have already drafted a living will that says “No” to any costly medical care when I’m knocking on heaven’s door, and I intend to depart quietly, with morphine and a nice bottle of wine thank you very much, rather than leave my surviving family with an empty bank account.

More questions... is there really a problem with long-term residents? I have seen stories in the media about irresponsible tourists evading hospital bills, but recall nothing about long-stayers. If they are here long-term, surely they can be sued, can’t they? 

A decade ago, the prime minister of the day, Abhisit Vejjajiva, questioned why the country was obsessed with tourism growth when it should be wooing retirees who are far more valuable, per capita, to the economy. Events overtook him, and right now our “growth-ist” economics minister is wringing his hands over the loss of zero-dollar Chinese mass tourists, who most people are thankful to be rid of.

May this vicious proposal be kicked 

into the long grass until a new, and hopefully more enlightened, government is elected.

Nigel Pike

Phang Nga 

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