Thailand's expat community is reeling after the news of Thai public hospitals given the green light to charge higher rates for foreigners than the locals.
The new split rates kick in from September 29. The unpopular Thai policy of dual pricing will now cover public hospital care. Public hospitals in Thailand will now be able to legally charge foreign nationals higher rates for services under new
regulations published last week.
There will now be four tiers of rates that can be charged for services based on the patient's immigration status in ascending order of price:
foreigners from neighbouring countries
working foreigners on non-immigrant visas
tourists & retirees.
For example, an HIV test costs 160 baht if you're Thai. It goes up to 240 baht for working expats and then to 320 baht for retirees and tourists. Or, a spinal MRI examination will cost Thais 18,700 baht. That jumps to 23,375 baht for working expats and
28,050 baht for retirees and tourists.
But the costs, allowing greater charges for working foreigners and tourists, will still be a lot less than the charges at most Thai private hospitals.
Thailand has long been an attractive destination for Western expats - where money goes further and can buy a good quality of life. But the revival of an arcane immigration law has angered the expat community and got them questioning their freedoms in
Thailand, as George Styllis reports from Bangkok.
I've been made to feel as if I'm not welcome here , says Zareeka Gardner, a 25-year-old English teacher from the US. Since arriving in Thailand in April, she has racked up immigration fines totalling 12,400 baht (£330). A large part of that is
because her apartment manager failed to promptly file a form saying where she was staying.
Thailand's Immigration Act contains a clause requiring all foreigners to let the authorities know where they're staying at all times.
Previously this job has been done by hotels collecting guests' details, or it was just ignored. But as of March, the government has been applying the law without compromise or exception.
Landlords must notify immigration authorities whenever a foreigner returns home after spending more than 24 hours away from their permanent residence - be it a trip abroad or even leaving the province. The same applies to foreigners married to Thais -
their Thai spouse, if they own the house, must file the report.
The form, known as a TM30, must be submitted within 24 hours of the foreigner's arrival or the property owner will be fined. If the fine isn't paid, the foreigner will be unable to renew their visa or other permits until that's rectified.