By THE NATION
The Cabinet yesterday approved a Bt191-billion budget, increasing the per-head subsidy to Bt3,600 for 48.26 million members of the “gold card” universal healthcare scheme, NHSO secretary-general Dr Sakchai Kanjanawatana said.
The NHSO budget has seen a gradual increase: it received Bt181.584 billion (with per-head subsidy of Bt3,426.56) in fiscal 2019, and Bt172 billion (with per-head subsidy of Bt3,197) in fiscal 2018. Of the total budget, Sakchai said Bt174 billion would cover salaries and payments to personnel as well as the Bt3,600 per-head subsidy paid to registered hospitals and medical facilities.
A total of Bt3.596 billion would be allocated to support treatments for those living with HIV/Aids and Bt9.405 billion would be for chronic kidney failure.
A sum of Bt1.037 billion will cover public health services for prevention and care for escalated chronic diseases, while Bt1.490 billion would be an additional budget for public health service units in rural and risky areas, including the southernmost border provinces, he said. As well, Bt1.025 billion will support public health services for bed-ridden or home-bound ailing patients in communities, while Bt268 million would fund additional public health services in the primary level via “family doctors”, he added.
Sakchai said the increased budget for the NHSO for fiscal 2020, especially the hike in per-head subsidy, would allow the development of systems to boost people’s access to medical treatments and public health services.
Funds for new treatments
Among the approved projects that would be launched in fiscal 2020 are: the “HLA-B*1520” genetic screening to detect allergy before starting a carbamazepine-involved treatment; coverage of 12 additional small surgeries (requiring no hospital stay); coverage of medicines to treat Alzheimer’s disease, thyroid cancer, and neuropathy, as well as an additional formula of drug-resistance antiretroviral medicine; diarrhoea vaccination for children; and stem-cell transplants using cells from non-relative donors.
The primary healthcare system would provide services from family doctors, while care for bed-ridden or homebound patients would be available for all ages, not just senior citizens, he said.
The NHSO would also, in fiscal 2020, join related agencies to launch pilot services that would allow the public more access to necessary healthcare services thus improving their quality of life. Such joint pilot projects included the Down’s Syndrome-screening service for pregnant women, the Automated Peritoneal Dialysis for chronic kidney patients, and the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, for people who do not have HIV but are at substantial risk, he said.
NHSO deputy chief Dr Jaded Thammathataree said the agency estimated that “gold card” members, whose numbers had fallen slightly from 48.5 million to 48.26 million as many had entered the workforce, would generally seek medical treatment 3.73 times/head/year. Since the number of elderly NHSO subscribers had risen to about 10 million people, who would require more expensive medical care with greater frequency at approximately seven times per head per year, the hike in the NHSO budget was appropriate.