Many private hospitals in Thailand charging emergency patients

THAILAND - Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong announced yesterday that his ministry would be setting up a pre-authorisation process for emergency treatment in a bid to resolve a rising problem of reimbursement for private hospitals across the nation.

This move comes after it was revealed that some private hospitals ask patients to pay in advance before providing emergency care.

The reimbursement programme for private hospitals comes under the government's emergency medical service scheme, which allows people registered with one of the three national healthcare schemes to receive emergency treatment at any hospital close to the scene of the accident. The healthcare schemes include National Health Security Fund, Social Security Fund and Civil Servant Medical Benefit.

Under this scheme, patients do not have to pay for emergency care and the hospital can seek reimbursement from the National Health Security Office (NHSO).

However, despite joining the scheme on April 1, 2012, many private hospitals are still charging patients by getting them to sign a bond before providing treatment. Of the 353 private hospitals across the nation, 241 signed up for the scheme last year.

NHSO secretary-general Dr Winai Swasdivorn said that up to 25 per cent of these private hospitals are getting patients to pay in advance for treatment as well as seeking reimbursement from the NHSO.

So far, 22,836 patients have received emergency medical treatment under the scheme, of whom 6,050 patients were in critical condition. The NHSO has reimbursed more than Bt331 million to private hospitals.

In a move to improve the situation, Public Health Minister said the government will set up a pre-authorisation centre that hospitals can contact to surmise if a patient can be considered to be in critical condition and if the government will cover the expenses.

In addition, he said, the ministry would educate people on what can be considered an emergency case in order to reduce confusion.

In a related development, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will today scrutinise the emergency medical services provided under the three national healthcare schemes.

She will also study the proposal to protect the insured under the 1992 Motor Vehicle Accident Coverage Act. The prime minister is set to hold a meeting with Pradit, Finance Minister Kittirat Na-Ranong and Labour Minister Phadermchai Sasomsap to discuss the issues.