In Thailand, the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme, commonly referred to as the “30-baht” or “gold card” scheme, requires a copayment of 30 baht per visit. It is the largest of the three healthcare programs providing universal healthcare to the country’s citizens. The scheme covers the majority of the population and is directly funded by the national budget, allocated by the National Health Security Office (NHSO). Every Thai citizen is entitled to the 30-baht scheme, but if already covered by another scheme, that coverage will be use first. Approximately 48 million out of Thailand’s total population of 69 million are insured under the 30-baht scheme, while the remaining population is covered through employers or the civil servants’ medical benefit scheme.
Thailand’s UHC provides numerous benefits for the Thai population. The strengths of the UHC scheme, in my opinion, include the following:
* Improving access to necessary medical care without financial barriers.
* Ensuring social equity by providing healthcare services to everyone regardless of their socio-economic status.
* Reducing the financial burden on individuals and families through low healthcare costs while maintaining the standard of care.
* Improving public health outcomes through increased access to healthcare services, early detection and treatment of illnesses, preventive care, and management of chronic conditions, leading to overall better health and well-being.
However, Thailand’s UHC also have some weaknesses such as:
* Limited financial support: Providing healthcare for 48 million people requires substantial financial resources, particularly in the era of an aging population like today. The government need a lot of effort to ensure the sustainable financing to cover the costs of providing comprehensive healthcare to its citizens.
* Limited access to specialized services may affect the quality of care: Resource constraints can lead to long waiting times for certain procedures and inadequate access to advanced medical technologies. I often experience while working in the clinic when patients need to decide which medication they will recieve either the higher cost one with the best quality and self-paid or another medication with lower quality but cheap and reimbursable. Sometimes we upset patients with the undeniable options when this happens to the low income families.
To mitigate the weaknesses of Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage (UHC) scheme, the government should prioritize increasing healthcare funding, enhancing efficiency in healthcare delivery, expanding infrastructure and workforce. These efforts are crucial for strengthening the UHC scheme and ensuring equitable access to high-quality healthcare for all citizens.