Stickman Readers' Submissions May 5th, 2006

My Hospital Bill: The One Million Baht Surprise

Being a retired media worker from cold Europe, I have been living lately for many months every year in the vicinity of Jomtien Beach. I choose Thailand as my second home because of the mild climate, the good infrastructure and the abundance of high-class beachside condos at reasonable prices. All in all I spend 20K baht a month for comfortable living, mainly swimming in the sea or in the pool, writing on my laptop, watching TV on Asiasat3 (for which I put a seven foot parabol antenna on my roof) and listening to the monks singing in the night.

At my age I need to take some prescription pills, and I found a doctor in South Pattaya who doubles as a pharmacist who gives me everything I needed at a very reasonable price.

He Clinic Bangkok

During the last few years in Thailand my health improved. Maybe that made me careless.

I am subjugated to compulsory healthcare insurance in Germany. It is deducted directly from my pension, taking a big bite out of it. But this insurance covers only the countries of the European Union. Not South East Asia.

With my Gold Credit Card there come two insurances free of charge. One promises to fly me home by private jet in case of emergency, the other covers the cost of medical treatment abroad, but only for the first 56 days of a trip. After that – nada.

I could and should have sought extra insurance for day 57 and later. But I had found medical bills in Thailand so affordable that I did not worry about possible complications.

CBD bangkok

Suddenly last summer – when I had stayed in Jomtien for more than 56 days – I encountered a grave health problem. I ordered an ambulance to the next international hospital, where they gave me a room and discovered that my heart worked only at 18 percent of its capacity and that I had pneumonia on both sides of my lungs. I asked the hospital to put me in an ambulance to Don Muang, so that I could be treated in a European hospital. I had an open Business Class ticket to Germany. But the doctors explained that the airline would only accept me, if the hospital declared me fit for transport, a state which – according to them – I was not in, so that they could not give me this document and I had to stay under their care. Nearly immediately I caught an additional infection from germs which like to multiply in hospitals, enjoying immunity against antibiotics.

I made a last farewell phone call to my relatives in Germany and fell into coma, not to regain consciousness for seven weeks.

Three of my relatives took the next affordable flight to Bangkok, rushed to Pattaya and asked the doctors to keep me alive. Which they barely managed. But at what a price? They billed me 40K baht for every single day in ICU, and they made it clear to my relatives that they wanted immediate payment, or else they would dump me at some less hospitable place.

My relatives had come to Thailand without excess money and they had problems communicating with their banks at home because of the time difference and the new dialog procedures ("If you want this… press that button on your phone.") I still had a small nest egg in my bank in Germany, but I was incommunicado in coma and could tell no one how to take the money out of it.

wonderland clinic

Somehow my relatives managed to pick up money. Just imagine one day in hospital equals two months of comfortable living in a luxurious seaside condo! After having run out of more than one million baht in just 25 days my condition did not improve. So my relatives decided to send me back to Europe. Luckily the homebringing insurance of my Goldcard (for which I pay nothing) agreed to shoulder the cost: Another two million baht, for flying a private Learjet with doctor, nurse and respirator machine. That was great.

In Europe the doctors were not much more successful. I spent another 25 days in ICU in coma, and then four more months in different hospitals. But now the cost was covered by my compulsory health insurance. In both countries the doctors tried hard to help me. The Thai physicians were of the same high quality as their European counterparts. I have to thank both for their efforts.

While I write this I still sit in a wheelchair and shall need more time for recovery.

If I ever can go back to my beloved Thailand is uncertain. I miss the silken air, the burning sunsets and the singing of the monks in the night. I doubt very much that any health insurance company will give me future cover for Thailand with this case history.

Stickman's thoughts:

Wow. Hey, you pulled through, good on you! I really hope you get to make it back to Thailand.

nana plaza