In a bid to reduce the financial costs of public hospitals operating within the Kingdom, the Ministry of Public Health is contemplating a measure which would, in effect, force foreign tourists to purchase travel and health insurance prior to entering the country.
According to Pradit Sinthawanarong, the Minister of Public Health, roughly 2.5 million foreign visitors make hospital trips during their time here every year.
With the number of tourists visiting Thailand expected to tip 30 million by 2015, the costs of providing emergency medical care, often to tourists incapable of paying, is placing a heavier burden on local hospitals. The problem is becoming particularly acute in the face of a rapidly aging population who will demand more and more costly government care as they grow old. Last year alone, the Thai government spent THB140 billion on care for the elderly.
Over the long term, the Ministry is considering moves which would force tourists to buy insurance by imposing additional fees on air fare or a hotel tax. Not surprisingly, these moves are being opposed by the Thai travel industry.
As reported by the Bangkok Post, about 40% of medical visits are made by expats living in the Kingdom. Another 20% are medical tourists in town for specific procedures, while 8% are attending for general medical care. The additional 32% are believed to be emergency cases.