When staying well gets expensive price-gouging probe extends to vet clinics as well as private hospi
Reportedly excessive prices being charged at veterinarian clinics and animal hospitals are to be reined in, says the director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s Department of International Trade (DIT).
Wichai Phochanaki said on Friday the DIT would screen the many such facilities and try to ensure consumers were not being overcharged for services and medicine.
He also provided an update on the ministry’s progress in tackling the same problem at private hospitals for people.
DIT officials were arranging meetings with the administrators of about 70 private hospitals to discuss public complaints about prices charged for medicine, medical supplies and treatment, he said.
Some charge 300 per cent more than the median price, some even as much as 8,000 per cent more, Wichai said.
Some charge Bt800,000 per dose of cancer medication, well above the median Bt200,000, and Bt200 for every tablet of the painkiller paracetamol, which can readily be bought elsewhere for Bt5.
The 70 or so hospitals under scrutiny represent 30 per cent of the 353 hospitals that have submitted information about their prices, as requested by a ministry committee on May 30, Wichai said.
Another 30 per cent claimed to charge prices below the median, while another 40 per cent set “moderate” prices that could be considered “fair to patients to a certain degree”, he said.
Private hospitals have until July 12 to report their charges and fees, after which the DIT will post all of the prices online so that people can base their choice of hospitals on what they can afford.
Wichai said hospitals are required to notify the DIT 15 days in advance of any price change so that online and QR-code information can be updated.
Failure to do so could land administrators in jail for up to a year, bring a fine of up to Bt20,000, or both, as well as a daily fine of Bt2,000 until they comply.
Wichai said private hospitals need to give people room to choose once they know their diagnosis by notifying them about prices charged for various treatments.
Doctors must give patients a document with each drug prescription that clearly identifies the medications by both scientific name and commercial name, the advised dosage and frequency of ingestion, and the price per unit.
The patient could then choose to buy the medication from the hospital or elsewhere, using the prescription paper. Physicians who fail to meet this requirement face up five years in prison, a Bt100,000 fine, or both.
The Commerce Ministry and its partners have established a committee to assess complaints about “over-treatment” of patients, such as administering unnecessary and costly X-rays and MRI scans, resulting in pricey bills.
The committee will ascertain the facts and alert the ministry’s central committee if further action was deemed necessary.
The penalty for unnecessary treatment is a maximum seven years in prison, a Bt140,000 fine, or both.
Wichai said these efforts were not aimed at state-run “public” hospitals, which must adhere to separate laws and regulations and are under the supervision of the Finance Ministry’s Comptroller General’s Department.
“We just want to see private hospitals and patients being kind to each other, because they’re dependent upon one another,” he said.
“Sometimes patients have limited options when it comes to matters of life and death. I want the private hospitals to adjust their way of thinking and operating to be fairer and more transparent.”