October 16, 2012,
I’m one of those idiots who pays into a health insurance plan month after month, year after year, and never goes to the doctor.
In fact, I’ve had my current plan for years without ever filing a claim. The only reason to have it is the unlikely event that I trip over my shoelace while visiting the US and end up with a $200,000 emergency room bill.
Everywhere else, insurance isn’t necessary; the price of healthcare in most places is reasonable enough to pay cash.
Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in Thailand… home to one of the most advanced, highest quality, and cheapest private healthcare systems on the planet.
Every time I’m here, I visit a hospital just to try things out; my experiences have always been stellar. And speedy.
Just yesterday I dropped in (without an appointment) to Bangkok Hospital’s Pattaya branch to check my cholesterol. There was zero paperwork upon check-in… no stupid forms, no clipboards. And I went straight to the back. No waiting around.
Afterwards, one of the staff physicians came over to chat. His English was perfect, and it seemed as if I was his only patient of the day.
That’s perhaps one of the most important points about healthcare here– the staff/patient ratio is astoundingly high, so you get a tremendous amount of personal attention.
The whole experience is also very private. I use an assumed name at the hospital. I’ve never given them any ID. And obviously there’s no insurance company or government agency demanding my records.
The biggest benefit, though, is cost. Or lack thereof. The amount I paid for my visit yesterday wouldn’t buy a beer in some countries. And the sticker shock applies universally to all tests and procedures, from imaging to chemotherapy to fertility treatments to elective surgery.
The physicians here are excellent. But for those who can’t get over the idea of a foreign doctor, one approach is hiring a specialist in your home country to consult and be the ‘quarterback’ of your care. You get all the expensive tests, imaging, and labs done in Thailand, then send the results back home.
This approach also works with medication.
A friend of mine in the United States has Type I diabetes, and his insurance plan provides a fixed supply of insulin. As you may know, diabetes does not necessarily conform to the terms and conditions of a health plan.
My friend wanted to have some extra insulin injections… just in case. But the insurance company balked. So while visiting New York a few months ago, I asked a doctor who owed me a favor to write my friend a prescription for a few spare vials.
In the US, the tab came to $1,770. In Thailand, it costs 77% less. I checked into a number of other name brand pharmaceuticals ranging from blood pressure medication to new chemo drugs. The same trend applies, typically 50% to 90% cheaper.
If you’re uninsured, or seeking medication/treatment not covered by your insurance, consider Thailand. This country is full of internationally accredited hospitals. The quality is excellent. And the travel expense is a no-brainer investment in huge cost savings.
And there’s one more thing. The baht is fairly weak right now having been handily outperformed by many other currencies in the region. This makes care here even cheaper if you’re a dollar spender.
But it won’t last. Courtesy of Mr. Bernanke’s never-ending money printing, inflation is being exported to this part of the world on a grand scale. Plus, there will come a time when the baht gains substantial ground against the dollar.
All of this will inflate away the cheap, high quality care you can receive here. As such, now may be the best time ever for you to trade your rapidly depreciating dollars for an investment in your health.
After all, if there is severe economic turmoil down the road, do you really want to experience it wishing you had done something about that nagging hip pain?
And even if nothing happens, investing in your health makes sense… no matter what.