Universal healthcare pilot scheme offers flexible hospital choice in Thailand

Photo by Adhy Savala on Unsplash

The Public Health Minister, Cholnan Srikaew, has announced the readiness of a new pilot scheme that will enable members of the universal healthcare (UC) programme to seek health services at any hospital. The initiative is aimed at enhancing healthcare delivery, providing UC members with the flexibility to seek eligible services at any hospital. It is expected that the scheme will be initially introduced in a few health zones, which are better equipped to manage this task.

A health zone is a collective of provinces, with 13 such zones existing across the nation, inclusive of Bangkok. The implementation of the scheme in two or three of these health zones will be decided by the health permanent secretary, according to Cholnan, who is also the leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party. This decision will be made ahead of a broader announcement regarding the full implementation of the programme.

Cholnan stated, “We’ll monitor and evaluate [the progress of the programme]”. “We’ll address the problems before the scheme is adopted nationwide. People can receive medical care at any hospital by using only their identification card,” he noted.

The scheme will allow UC members to seek any medical care or treatment covered by their UC scheme. In order to address complaints of unequal access to health services, a committee will be established to scrutinise health coverage provisions by other healthcare schemes. Cholnan also mentioned that the country’s health service provision systems will be digitised to improve access and reduce overcrowding at hospitals.

An insider at the Public Health Ministry indicated that the scheme is likely to be launched at the 8th health zone, which includes Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Loei, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lamphu and Bung Kan provinces. This zone comprises 88 hospitals supervised by the ministry. It is reported that health records have been transitioned to a cloud-based system and the National Health Security Office has established a funds disbursement system.

Additionally, Cholnan communicated the ministry’s intention to expedite the free cervical cancer vaccination programme targeting girls aged 11–20. This decision follows findings showing that over 6,000 women in the country are diagnosed with the disease annually, leading to 2,000 deaths each year. The ministry aims to provide at least 1 million doses within the 100-day period, targeting girls in and outside the education system, reports Bangkok Post.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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