Thailand’s Universal Coverage (UC) scheme is aimed at providing medical care for all Thais. The system is managed by National Health Security Office (NHSO) so that patients can be treated for free for certain illnesses. The universal coverage will bridge the gap between the rich and poor that are obtaining medical services.
However, 16 years after the universal coverage scheme was launched, the system is running out of money. Last December, AthiwaraKhongmalai, a rocker, has to run 400 kilometres from Bangkok to Bang Saphanwithin 10 days to be able to raise funds for the Bang Saphan hospital in central Thailand. Toon Bodyslam, the lead singer of rock band Bodyslam has also raised 80 million baht from donations to stop the hospital from shutting down.
Bang Saphan is not the only hospital in Thailand that is facing a liquidity crunch. Many hospitals have spent more money than they receive because of the increasing number of patients, the growing ageing population, increased malpractice insurance and the higher costs of medicines, technology and equipment.
Hospital deficits are just the tip of the problem because there are many issues in the healthcare system that has to be reformed. State hospitals get funding from three sources: state budget, operators of three healthcare schemes and money earned by hospital operators. The 3 healthcare schemes include the universal coverage, healthcare scheme for civil servants and social security scheme. If there is additional cost of treatment, the hospital must bear the burden of the costs.
UC provides healthcare coverage for 48 million Thais but its ballooning budget has raised questions on sustainability. The NCSO budget could be better spent if regulations are amended according to the healthcare system. UC is a good healthcare scheme and it has achieved some success with its goals but the stigma of being a legacy of a politician has to be eliminated.
Having Thailand insurance is very important to have protection against financial losses during unexpected sickness or injuries. Because of the limited budget of universal coverage scheme, there are doubts whether it can still pay for quality healthcare. Thais should get their coverage to ensure their good health and wellbeing.