One of the many reasons travelers love Thailand: It’s a great place to stretch a limited travel budget.
But poor choices by some of those travelers have cost the country tens of millions of dollars in medical bills in recent years, and it appears Thai officials finally may have had enough.
Various reports over the past few months have indicated that officials at the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports were deliberating over a proposal to make minimum levels of travel insurance compulsory before visitors are allowed to enter the country.
This week, the Committee of National Tourism Policy charged the Office of Insurance Commission to review a formal plan.
Although the proposal appears to be gaining momentum among Thai lawmakers, there’s no indication that the requirements would become law soon, no plan for how to enforce the rules, and no specifics on whether visitors would have to buy insurance from Thai companies upon arrival or whether they could purchase policies from companies based elsewhere.
In short, a new rule is still a way’s away.
One thing is certain: The issue has become a big problem. A recent article from an Australian wire service quoted Jaturon Phakdeewanit, director of Thailand’s Tourism Safety and Security Standards, as saying that visitors without travel insurance have cost Thailand at $88 million (in U.S. dollars) a year for their medical treatments at state hospitals. Currently, the Thai government and local hospitals pick up the vast majority of those costs.
Thai officials are considering a broad range of solutions to the problem. One report from TTR Weekly, a zine that covers travel news across Southeast Asia, said officials have discussed vending machines that sell insurance products to travelers at airports and border checkpoints.
Other reports have noted that the government could set up a website to sell the products and encourage travelers to stop there before they begin their journeys.
Currently, no travel insurance is required for trips to Thailand. A number of companies offer policies that would handle medical coverage in Asia, and policies vary depending on age, nationality, duration of trip, and overall itinerary. World Nomads, an insurance company based in Australia, has policies starting around $54 per week.
As of now, Thai officials have not finalized what their required insurance would include. Stay tuned.