World urged to follow Thai healthcare scheme

PHOTO: World urged to follow Thai healthcare scheme

BANGKOK - Inspired by Thailand's successful universal healthcare scheme, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is planning to encourage a similar model worldwide.

"We will highlight the fact that this scheme is a form of investment for the country's economic and social development at international meetings where decision-makers from various countries gather," Dr Maureen E Birmingham yesterday said in his capacity as the WHO representative to Thailand yesterday.

He was speaking at a forum held at the Centara Grand at CentralWorld as part of the Prince Mahidol Award 2011 events.

Birmingham said WHO would also work with its allies in government, civic and academic sectors to push for the launch of universal healthcare scheme in various different countries.


Dr Timothy G Evans from the BRAC University's School of Public Health said research on the implementation of the decade-old universal healthcare scheme found that the scheme covered up to 75 per cent of Thai population.

"Thanks to the scheme, the rate of bankruptcy relating to medical bills has dropped from 6.8 per cent in 1995 to just 2.8 per cent in 2008," he pointed out.

He said the scheme had prevented more than 80,000 families in Thailand from getting poorer.

"The satisfaction level in the scheme has also increased significantly," Evans said.

In 2004, medical workers and medical-service providers gave the scheme just 39 out of the possible 100 points. However, in 2010, they gave the scheme up to 79. People, meanwhile, gave the scheme 83 points in 2003 and as many as 90 points in 2008.

Evans said Thailand launched the universal healthcare scheme at a time when its national income was just US$1,900 (Bt60,000) per head. To him, the successful implementation of the scheme has proven to the world that a country did not need to be rich before it could come up with such healthcare coverage for its people.


Health Insurance System Research Office director Dr Samrit Srithamrongsawat, however, suggested that Thailand would still need to tackle problems in its healthcare systems.

One of them, he said, was the fair distribution of resources.

Health Systems Research Institute director Dr Pongpisut Jongudomsuk said there was still inequality among people receiving healthcare services under different types of healthcare schemes.

Evans said Thailand's universal healthcare scheme would have to adjust itself well to the changing context, too.

"Thailand will have more elderly citizens in the future and their health needs will be different from the young," he said.

Birmingham said in its second decade, the universal healthcare scheme in Thaiand should focus more on the prevention of disease and the promotion of good health.

"The scheme should seriously encourage people to avoid unhealthy behaviour," he said.

He believed that Thailand's universal healthcare scheme should extend its coverage to migrant workers, too.

The number of these migrant workers is between 2 million and 4 million.

Birmingham said these migrant workers were resources for Thailand's economy and society. Medical services for them, he added, would bolster Thailand's health security.