THAILAND’S tourism minister says she will hold talks with relevant parties on providing insurance to foreign tourists visiting the Kingdom.
Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said this week that she will discuss the possibility with relevant parties from airport and immigration authorities.
She said the plan has met with opposition from many parties, who feel the cost of providing insurance to tourists should not come from government coffers.
“The tourism minister added that there has been a suggestion to incorporate this expense with other costs of travel, such as the visa fee or as an airfare add-on,” the National News Bureau of Thailand reported.
The minister’s announcement comes amid reports this week that a British woman has died in a Thai hospital after running up a 1.65 million baht (US$47,138) medical bill that her family could not pay.
Kathryn Williamson, 51, died last week after spending more than two months on life support after collapsing while on holiday in the country, reported British tabloid The Sun.
“Kathryn had been ill for a long time and suffers from arthritis. I think the heat hit her. She wasn’t well and went to bed then got up and just collapsed,” a family member was quoted as saying.
A crowdfunding effort to raise the money for Williamson’s care fell well short of its £36,000 target, with family members now hoping they can raise enough to have her body released from the hospital and returned home.
Thai authorities have struggled for a number of years to come up with a workable scheme to ensure that tourists visiting the country have adequate insurance.
Thai hospitals in tourist areas complain that they often have to foot the bill for injured or sick tourists who are unable to pay their medical bills.
In 2013, Dr. Nara Kingkaew, then deputy director of Vachira Public Hospital in Phuket, said that the hospital alone had 4 million baht (nearly US$114,000) in additional costs per year, directly linked to foreigners without insurance or who could not pay hospital bills.
At the time, Thai authorities proposed to address the issue by making insurance compulsory for foreign visitors. We reported at the time that tourists who applied for visas outside the country could be required to purchase a 500 baht insurance package. The proposal was never put in place.
A recent survey found that a projected 33.87 million tourists will visit Thailand this year, a rise of 13.35 percent from last year.