Unregulated private hospital pricing has jeopardised all Thai healthcare
Re: “Medical price control plan looms over private hospitals”, Front page, January 11.
Private hospital shares in Thailand have long been a darling of foreign fund managers because there has been a perception that normal developed-country metrics for valuing healthcare stocks were not applicable in Thailand because of the lack of willingness of the government to control prices. Hospital managements were always happy to boast to visiting fund managers that they were able to impose annual price increases that were way in excess of consumer price inflation, a situation they expected to last indefinitely. Hopefully the government will now seize the opportunity to regulate hospital prices according to the international standards to which the private hospitals always claim to adhere.
The knock-on effects of private hospital prices rising faster than salaries are serious for society and the economy. Rising healthcare costs force insurance companies to raise premiums for medical insurance. Middle class Thais who aspire to buy medical insurance and use private healthcare get crowded out and are forced to return to or remain in Universal Healthcare or the Social Security system. That puts a greater strain on these two systems, which, particularly Universal Healthcare, are already straining at the seams. This puts the health of the workforce and their families in greater jeopardy.
A healthy workforce is more productive and middle class consumers that are not saving to cover costs of ever-rising healthcare costs have more money available to recycle into the consumer economy. Providing high-quality affordable private healthcare as well as improving government healthcare is something that will benefit workers and business owners alike, with the exception of the price-gougers – but they must have accumulated enough wealth from their dubious practices by now.
After regulating private healthcare in a sensible and fair way, the next important step for the government will be to merge the three government healthcare schemes. The Social Security scheme only provides for the insured worker, not his or her family, while Universal Healthcare is stretched to the limit. There is no longer any justification for maintaining a third scheme for civil servants and their families that pays out far more per-capita than either of the other two government schemes. Merging the three would give bureaucrats a strong incentive to reform a new universal system, since they and their families would share an equal stake in it with the general public. George Morgan Bangkok
How much?! Pricing at private hospitals in Thailand ignores international standards, a reader says.