Coverage boost for very sick
The Public Health Ministry is to introduce a Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) Plus programme for Covid-19 patients with moderate to severe symptoms.
The Department of Health Service Support director-general, Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong, said patients with moderate symptoms will be treated at state and private hospitals under the newly extended UCEP Plus scheme.
At present, all costs associated with Covid-19 treatments are covered by the UCEP scheme, meaning patients can seek treatment at any hospital free of charge.
However, from March 1, Covid-19 treatments for all but the most serious cases will no longer be covered.
Patients with mild symptoms will be treated by means of home or community isolation programmes or under other schemes including the National Health Security Office's universal health coverage scheme, the social security system or the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme.
When asked how doctors and medical professionals would distinguish between moderate and critical symptoms, Dr Tares said moderate patients tend to have pneumonitis and need oxygen through nasal cannulas while those in critical condition usually have to be admitted to ICUs or need intubation.
"We will submit the proposal for the cabinet to approve before the announcement takes effect," he said, adding that the National Institute for Emergency Medicine would announce formal criteria for distinguishing between moderate and critical conditions.
Asked why some Covid-19 patients have been charged over 100,000 baht for treatment at some private hospitals, Dr Tares said at present Covid-19 treatment is still included under the terms of the UCEP until there is an official government announcement to exclude the disease.
Those who violate the law will face penalties of up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to 40,000 baht, he said.
Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha said he welcomed the UCEP Plus concept, adding it would pave the way for Covid-19 to be reclassified as an endemic disease.
However, he said it was still too early to exclude free treatment for Covid-19 coverage from the overall UCEP scheme at the beginning of March.