Patients should pay for some of the treatments which hospitals charge to health scheme operators to offset flaws in the reimbursement system, a senior doctor said yesterday.
These flaws have left state hospitals cash-strapped, Dr Udom Kachintorn, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital said.
Operators of the three major healthcare schemes are slow in reimbursing hospitals for services they provide patients, which leaves the hospitals short of money and forced to raise fees to compensate, Dr Udom said.
Under the three health plans _ the universal healthcare scheme, the Social Security Fund (SSF), and the medical scheme for state officials _ patients receive free treatment in state hospitals.
The scheme operators later pay the hospitals for these services.
Dr Udom said the Social Security Office, which handles the SSF scheme, has yet to pay Siriraj Hospital about 300 million baht for medical treatment and services carried out last year. The hospital also lost 400 million baht under the 30 baht healthcare scheme last year as medical costs exceeded the National Health Security Office's budget allocation.
"We have to accept the truth, that the government does not have enough money to support a universal healthcare system," he said.
Siriraj Hospital last week announced it would raise medical fees by about 10% due to higher medical costs.
The hike was in line with a Public Health Ministry plan to increase treatment fees by 5-10% on average at every state hospital.
Dr Udom said many hospitals are facing financial problems. Siriraj Hospital is a top institution equipped with advanced medical technology and has superior standards, he said.
"We can't reduce standards to cut costs. So we have to shoulder higher costs to maintain our high standards," he said.
He said the hospital's standards could be maintained if patients contributed to their treatment immediately.
They, along with the hospital, could be reimbursed by the health scheme operator later, Dr Udom said. This would allow hospitals to remain financially viable and able to provide quality medical care.
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Writer: Paritta Wangkiat