B205bn health budget agreed

B205bn health budget agreed

The cabinet yesterday approved an increase in the universal healthcare budget for 2022 to 205 billion baht, 4.4% higher than this year.

Deputy government spokesperson Traisuree Taisaranakul said 203 billion baht would be allocated to the National Health Security Fund (NHSF) and the remaining 2.2 billion baht to the National Health Security Office (NHSO) for management costs.

Under the new budget, health coverage will reach 47.9 million people in the universal healthcare scheme, meaning an increase to just over 3,360 baht per head, 3.8% higher than now.

Health coverage for 169,041 dependents in communities will increase the most, by 21% to 1.01 billion baht.

The budget covers Covid-19 tests and treatment for 600,425 people.

The cabinet instructed the NHSO board to ensure equal access to public health services for all Thai people, including services for the prevention of HIV and for dependents in at-risk communities.

The NHSO board was also tasked with supporting local administrative organisations to carry out Covid-19 screening and lab tests in local areas.

The board has approved a proposal to set aside an additional 366 million baht to fund the inclusion of 137,000 more people -- who are expected to lose their jobs as a result the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic -- into the universal health coverage (UHC) scheme.

These people are expected to switch from the social security scheme (SSS) to the UHC after they become unemployed, said NHSO secretary-general Sakchai Kanjanawatana.

Up to 176,400 people are forecast to switch from the SSS to the UHC this year.

A number of those who had already switched previously might also switch back to the SSS later after they get a new job, said Dr Sakchai.

From January to September last year, when the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak took a heavy toll on the economy, 14,700 people per month on average had switched to the UHC, he said.

The budget allocated to fund healthcare under the UHC wouldn't be sufficient to also cover the additional 137,000 people who are expected to later join the UHC, so the NHSO needs an extra 366 million baht, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the chairman of the NHSO board, had previously expressed concerns over the expected shortage of funds, said Dr Sakchai.

The extra 366 million baht will come from the government's Covid-19 rehabilitation funds, he said.

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