Covid costs still covered
Govt delays plan to alter UCEP scheme
The government has decided to delay a plan to remove Covid-19 treatments from the list of conditions covered by the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) scheme, as the number of new infections continues to rise.
Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he asked the cabinet to postpone the plan indefinitely.
Coverage for Covid-19 patients under the scheme will remain unchanged, Mr Anutin said.
"The government and Public Health Ministry want to reassure the public that Covid-19 patients will be well looked after. With infections soaring, the ministry has to adjust and has decided to extend the UCEP coverage for Covid-19 patients further," he said.
Deputy government spokeswoman Traisulee Traisoranakul said the cabinet instructed the Public Health Ministry on Tuesday to reconsider implementing the new rule and make sure the public was clear about the matter before resubmitting a request to the cabinet.
A source at the cabinet meeting said Social Development and Human Security Minister Juti Krairiksh was also in favour of the delay as it has caused a level of panic.
Mr Anutin explained that patients are still eligible for free treatment under the scheme. He insisted the plan to exclude Covid-19 coverage from the UCEP scheme was not just aimed at saving costs as the scheme had no financial problems, the source said.
He said the plan was intended to save hospital beds for Covid-19 patients with severe conditions and patients suffering from other diseases, while patients with mild symptoms can self-isolate at home or receive treatment at community isolation facilities and still be entitled to free treatment under the state welfare schemes they registered with, the source said.
During the meeting, Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit also relayed public complaints about staff shortages and slow response times at the 1330 hotline service set up by the National Heath Security Office (NHSO) to coordinate efforts to find hospital beds for Covid-19 patients and give advice on treatment, the source said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the meeting he called the hotline and found the staff taking calls there sounded exhausted, the source said.
Gen Prayut said the Public Health Ministry should delay the UCEP rule and gather feedback before taking it back to the cabinet, the source said.
Under the UCEP scheme, patients can seek treatment at any medical facility free of charge for three days, after which they will be transferred to a hospital where their state welfare and/or health insurance scheme is registered.
However, the government had recently announced that starting on March 1, Covid-19 treatments would no longer be covered, except for those patients in critical condition.
At present, all costs associated with Covid-19 treatments are covered by the scheme, meaning patients can seek treatment at any hospital free of charge.
Mr Anutin previously said a new scheme called Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) Plus was being launched, which would handle Covid-19 sufferers who require emergency treatment for moderate to severe symptoms.
Thailand logged 18,363 new cases and 35 more Covid-19 fatalities.