Bt30 health fee may be scrapped
No point in charging such a small sum, Mongkol says
A day after making headlines by vowing to ban all forms of advertising for alcoholic drinks, new Public Health Minister Dr Mongkol Na Songkhla was in the spotlight again by saying the Bt30 healthcare scheme will be renamed and changed.
"The 'Bt30-cures-all-diseases' [slogan] was used by the Thai Rak Thai Party as a marketing gimmick," Mongkol said. "Well, just because I don't want to use this logo of the past government does not mean I don't agree with them. The point is, I don't want the patient to be charged Bt30 [per hospital visit] any more."
He saw no good reason to charge a patient a Bt30 fee, as the money was "almost nothing to hospitals in the scheme".
"They collect the Bt30 and have to write it down in three accounts while other patients wait in a long line," he said. "It's not worth it. Let them save time to treat more patients."
Mongkol noted that some small healthcare units collected only Bt120 or Bt150 a day, yet had to spend a great deal of time doing the accounts.
The doctor said he was going to discuss the matter with the National Health Security Office, which oversees the Bt30 healthcare scheme.
Asked when the scheme would stop charging patients' Bt30 per hospital visit, Mongkol said: "Very soon."
Moreover, the ministry might also cancel use of the "gold" ID card for patients registered in the scheme, he said. Instead, people would just show their normal ID cards. In the future hospital databases would hold all medical information of the individual.
The Bt30 scheme was a key Thai Rak Thai policy, and a key reason for their big victories in two elections.
Mongkol's suggestion to stop charging patients Bt30 per visit was welcomed by doctors in rural areas.
"The income from the Bt30 service charge is relatively so little and it's not worth it given that medical-service providers have to hire staff to register the money collection in three account books," said Dr Kriangsak Watcharanukolkiat, head of Phu Kradeung Hospital in Loei, which never collected the Bt30 fee.
Kriangsak believed it would be better for the government to increase subsidies for hospitals providing medical care.
Dr Worawoot Khowatcharakul, who chairs the Community Hospitals Directors Club in Chiang Mai, said the decision not to charge patients a Bt30 fee would not affect hospitals financially.
"Every day, there are many patients who fall into the category that exempts them from paying the Bt30 fee," Worawoot said. He said hospitals' main goal was to provide comprehensive medical services.