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Govt faces opposition over healthcare scheme

Dec 07. 2016
Dr Mongkol
Dr Mongkol
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By The Nation

Ex-minister urges civil servants to resist plan for private insurers to manage budget

FORMER PUBLIC health minister Dr Mongkol na Songkhla yesterday called on civil servants to oppose the government’s plan to transfer their medical-care scheme to privately run health-insurance providers, warning that their welfare would be affected and state-run hospitals could collapse financially.

“The best way to resist this plan is for civil servants to come forward and express their opposition,” Mongkol said at a press conference.

He made the suggestion when asked whether he would write a letter of protest against the plan.

Mongkol was speaking in his capacity as a representative of the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme New Operation (CSMBS) Network, which held a press conference in the compound of Chulalongkorn University.

The network is unhappy that the Finance Ministry is preparing to transfer the CSMBS to insurance firms, possibly including its budget of about Bt70 billion.

Finance Ministry permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse had said recently that the Cabinet would be asked to approve the plan to let healthcare-insurance providers manage the CSMBS.

In order to reduce the financial burden from healthcare for civil servants, the government plans to transfer an unspecified budget to insurance firms to manage. However, it remains unclear |how the scheme would work in practice.

The Finance Ministry earlier stated that the scheme would be similar to the government’s purchase of health insurance for civil servants and their families. But the ministry later said private firms would replace the Comptroller-General’s Department to manage the budget.

“Private firms will charge a management fee of no less than 10 per cent of the total budget,” Mongkol said. “Such an amount of money has always been shared among state hospitals. But if the government lets the private sector take over the scheme, this portion of money will go to private firms instead.”

He said many state hospitals would collapse financially if the government went ahead with the scheme.

The government has said it needs a new approach to provide medical benefits to civil servants and their family members because CSMBS expenses had risen significantly.

6 million affected

Records show that the medical-service scheme for civil servants and family members covered 6 million beneficiaries. But in fiscal year 2016 that ended on September 30, the scheme exhausted its budget of Bt71 billion.

CSMBS, one of Thailand’s major healthcare schemes, has expended the largest per-capita budget and covered the least number of beneficiaries.

At yesterday’s press conference, a former deputy permanent secretary for Public Health, Dr Siriwat Tiptaradol, said that if the Comptroller-General’s Department of the Finance Ministry detected irregularities in the disbursement of expensive medicines to CSMBS beneficiaries, it should investigate and introduce preventive measures.

“It should not recommend that the government transfer the management of the CSMBS to insurance companies,” he said.

Mongkol said civil servants and their family members would find it harder to proceed with claims if insurance companies were in charge.

On its Facebook page, the Rural Doctors Society of Thailand also warned the government against contracting insurance firms to manage the CSMBS.

“There are many other ways to control the budget of the CSMBS. Why does the government choose to hire insurance firms?” the statement asked. Several of the page’s followers also expressed opposition to the government’s move.

“We don’t believe that insurance firms will agree to provide the same level of coverage with the same budget that the government shells out,” one post said.

A woman who described herself as a government teacher also wrote that she disagreed with the plan to let the private sector take over the CSMBS.

 

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