Un­reg­u­lated pri­vate hos­pi­tal pric­ing has jeop­ar­dised all Thai health­care

The Nation - - OPINION&ANALYSIS -

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.

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