Given the rising cost of the country’s healthcare funds, prominent health economists yesterday urged the government to seek alternative financial sources to support medical insurance schemes.
Collecting tax from the sale of unhealthy food products such as fast food and soft drinks – as well as from airfares and luxury products – would be a potential source of financing for the healthcare funds, according to International Health Policy Programme Thailand director Dr Phusit Prakongsai. He was speaking at a seminar titled “New Thoughts for Thailand’s Health Security System” at the Thailand Development Research Institute.
He said Thailand in the near future would need a lot more funds for medical services, as it now faces new healthcare burdens such as an elderly population increase and the rising number of patients suffering from road-accident injuries, non-communicable diseases, diabetes, alcohol-related illnesses and HIV/AIDS.
These healthcare burdens require a lot of money to invest in health promotion and prevention programmes for communicable and non-communicable diseases, he said.
“The government should play a pro-active role in handling these health burdens,” he said.
To date, the government has spent only 5 per cent of the total healthcare budget for health promotion and prevention programmes.
In 2004, the Thai government spent Bt100 billion to provide medical services to 48 million National Health Security Fund members and Bt25 million for the Social Security Scheme to provide health benefits for 9.9 million subscribers.
The government also spent Bt61 billion to support the Civil Servant Medical Benefit covering 4.4 million people.
Meanwhile, prominent economist Ammar Siamwalla suggested the government should collect tax from medical services provided to foreign patients via private hospitals, in order to use this tax money to support healthcare schemes and medical personnel. He said private hospitals benefited from the government’s medical manpower.
TDRI scholar Duenden Nikomborirak urged the government to harmonise the management of the country’s three national healthcare schemes, to handle rising healthcare costs and to reduce the bag of medical services among these schemes.
For example, the basic essential medical services for all Thais should be provided and managed by the National Health Security Fund, she said, while the extra medical services – such as receiving medical services at private hospitals or compensation for maternity leave for eligible subscribers – should be provided by the Social Security Fund and Civil Servant Medical Benefit Fund.