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Revisiting Thai Medical Insurance for Retirees Amidst COVID-19 Outbreak

Transcript of the above video:

As the title of this video suggests, we are discussing Retirement Visa status here in Thailand and we are specifically bringing up a topic that as a relative matter on this channel was a lot more major topic some 6 months ago than it has been recently but it is something I think that is worth noting and worth thinking about as we are working through the ramifications of the Coronavirus outbreak here in Thailand. So the topic we are discussing is medical insurance for retirees in Retirement Visa status here in Thailand.

In prior videos on this channel I have gone into a lot of analysis on what I called the Thai Retirement Visa label bifurcation. So in a sense there is this cosmetic differentiation between retirement status which is garnered in Thailand via extension in O status vs O-A status which generally speaking is obtained via a Visa issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs abroad and then once someone comes to Thailand they continue to extend in that O-A category. I have gotten into this at length with many different people. I think one of the videos on this topic or comments I made ended up on Thai Visa and I went back and forth with folks on this so I want to delineate exactly where I stand on this before we get into medical insurance generally.

So specifically speaking, what we are talking about again. There is this difference in the way that Thai immigration here internally extends Retirement Visas using the label O Retirement Visa vs. Ministry of Foreign Affairs which uses the label O-A. As I have gone into in great length in other videos if you go to the actual law on this topic which is the Immigration Act back in '79  falls under what I call the catch-all category which basically designates visas pursuant to further ministerial regulations.  If you go back to the relevant section of the Law which defines the different Visa categories, there is no Retirement Visa, there is no O Retirement Visa laid out in the law and there is no O-A Retirement visa laid out in the law. It just says “or other categories as deemed by Ministerial Regulations”. So Immigration created the Retirement Visa category under the O category. Now you can call this O or O-A; this was all created regulatorily. It was not created in the Act itself. That is the first thing you have to understand. It was created pursuant to regulation and let's be clear, regulation can change.  It can change much more easily than the Law can change. To change the Immigration Act directly, an amendment would have to be made to the Act presumably via Parliament, and it would have to be published in The Royal Gazette etc. in order to become the Law of the land whereas a regulation can be changed. Now there is a process of changing rules and regulations. There is a formal process that has to be adhered to but it can be done in a much different manner than changing the law. So that is the first thing folks need to understand with respect to this topic is that these were created under a regulatory scheme. They can change under a regulatory scheme or they can be extinguished under a regulatory scheme. So retirement visas were created regulatorily.

Now, for whatever reason, and I have really dug around to try to find a history on this, and I can't figure it out, I personally think Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs began just creating this designation O-A because A means Annual and they were issuing a 1-year annual Visa at the various Consulates and Embassies that were issuing Retirement Visas abroad. Then when they came in that label follows along and the new regulations specifically note O-A so they continue to use this label. Meanwhile there is this O that just kind of is just hanging around out there that is done by Thai Immigration here internally when you extend status in Thailand in O status. So if you have an O Visa and you extend it based on retirement, you are extending only an O Visa status, not O-A visa status; the O-A sticks with you.

I have done videos on this. I think to some extent, now that it has been inadvertently created, it has been allowed to continue to sort of provide a grandfather clause for folks who were in Retirement Visa status before the regulations were promulgated that required medical insurance. So basically they said look if you were here as of the end of October 2019 when we promulgated medical insurance requirements and you had an O extension we are just going to keep extending you under those terms. That fits with the overall Immigration paradigm we have seen with respect to retirement visas for example the grandfathering in of different financial thresholds 200,000 and 400,000 etc. for folks who were in Thailand before a certain date in retirement status; they are not required to have as much money on hand in the bank compared to folks today who go for retiree status. So there is sort of for lack of a better term and I hate using this term in Thailand, Civil Law system, there is precedence for this kind of grandfathering. So that is the backstory of this. That is the context. This sort of internal differentiation of designation between O and O-A and  O-As definitely need medical insurance and these O retirees for whatever reason, it has just resulted in the fact that those folks at least at the time of this video, are not being required as often and I have gone into this at length in another video. I have had folks that have showed up to our office I have had folks contact me to say “hey my O Retirement Visa, they won't renew it without medical insurance”. In the two cases we dealt directly with that, it is my opinion they were wanting them to switch over to the marriage visa status. In some other cases folks were telling me that and I didn't get any further context because I think they just threw up their hands and went on their way. They didn't really want to deal with it anymore; they got exasperated. 

The thing to take away from this video is I saw folks who ended up switching over to O Marriage status because they were having issues renewing their Retirement status in light of these medical exam issues coming down and I have got videos on this channel at length going into the information about that. 

What I am making this video for is I think Coronavirus is going to be a major shake-up. The aftermath of this is going to be substantial and I think maybe not necessarily on an across-the-board policy level are they going to make a lot of changes with respect to Thai Immigration, but I think COVID-19 is going to have tremendous ramifications on the Immigration apparatus, not today not tomorrow but over the course of the next 6- 9 maybe 12 months, I think Immigration is going to be doing a lot of things in the aftermath of this and one of those things may very well be the reassessment of how they are going to apply policies related to medical insurance for retirees in Thailand. One of the major concerns for folks coming in in the early phases of the restrictions being imposed on travelers coming into Thailand, and it sort of culminated with basically a ban of any inbound flights, but one major concern was that foreigners show that they have medical coverage that they can prove that they have insurance, and I think it is not a major logical stretch to see Immigration Authorities saying “ This COVID-19 was a major issue. It is definitely an issue for folks of an older age and it can result in a lot of strain on the resources of a given country, in a given economy's Medical Care System. We are going to want to go ahead and broaden out our policy with respect to medical insurance”. I am not saying that is going to happen tomorrow and let me be clear. This is speculation on my part but it is speculation based on dealing with analyzing Thai Immigration over the long haul. I have been doing it now for a number of years and I don't think that it is inconsistent with the overarching policies and the policy initiatives we are going to see in the aftermath of COVID-19. I don't think it is inconsistent at all with policies that exists now, and the policies that are likely to come about in the aftermath of this thing.

So the thing to take away from this video:  Don't panic, don't fret. That is not my purpose in making this. I make these videos and videos like this where I do kind of speculate on something like this mostly to inform the viewer so that you can be aware of the possibility that Yeah, in the future they may be requiring medical insurance for anyone who is looking to retire in Thailand.