No plans to scrap UC scheme, PM says

No plans to scrap UC scheme, PM says

Govt seeks funding to keep health plan alive

Every Thai including this newborn can be assured of Universal Healthcare Coverage into the foreseeable future, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Every Thai including this newborn can be assured of Universal Healthcare Coverage into the foreseeable future, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has dismissed rumours that the government intends to scrap the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UC) scheme, saying the government is seeking sources of financing for the programme.

The government is not planning to end the UC scheme but is looking for financial support for it from various sources in a bid to improve it, Gen Prayut said.

The premier was speaking Monday as he visited a community in Surat Thani province.

"Stop making plans to hold protest marches against the government on the UC issue," Gen Prayut said.

Rumours have been rife that the government will terminate the UC scheme. It is a hot issue for netizens who have expressed concerns about the plan.

Initiated in 2002, the UC scheme or "30-baht gold card" is designed for people who are neither private sector employees nor government employees.

The plan is aimed at ensuring people have access to health care and receive government health subsidies.

On Thursday, meanwhile, Public Health Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said many countries have praised Thailand for its management of the scheme which has been subsidised solely by the government.

But the scheme requires an ever larger sum of government funding each year, he noted, adding the number of patients also increases yearly.  

He was speaking to the press at Government House as part of the Public Health Ministry's assessment of its performance over the past year.

He called on people to partially contribute to the scheme to make it sustainable rather than relying on the government to be wholly responsible for it.

No other countries are running UC plans based only on government subsidies, he said, adding other financial sources must be sought. The government is running a budget deficit as it is spending more than it is bringing in, he said.

"I was told not to raise the issue as it would be met with public opposition. But we have good intentions. We want to promote a sustainable scheme. We have to tell the truth to people so we can prepare for future problems," Dr Piyasakol said.

Meanwhile, the government should seek financial support from other sources to keep the scheme running, Ammar Siamwalla, a member of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said.  

He was speaking at the meeting which Dr Suwit Wibunponprasert -- a member of a panel on Universal Health Coverage -- chaired to discuss ways to promote the scheme.

"Simply put, when we get old, costs of healthcare treatment increase. And there are a growing number of elderly people in Thailand," Mr Ammar said.

Meanwhile, Dr Pratheep Thanakijcharoen, acting secretary-general of the National Health Security Office, said it is people's duty to cover their healthcare treatment when they fall ill.

Dr Piyasakol said Monday the government does not plan to scrap the UC scheme.

Related agencies are working together to find ways to improve the scheme's financial position but any changes will not affect low-income people, he added.

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