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HEALTHCARE

Ways sought to cut medical spending for state officials

The Finance Ministry is making another attempt to control the huge cost of medical coverage for state officials by looking for cheaper medicines and collaborating with private insurers.

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has assigned the Comp-troller-General's Department to look into the cost of medicines, said Rangsan Srivorasart, director-general of the department. The aim is to lower costs while maintaining high quality of medical services to state officials and their families.

The department will consult with physicians about cheaper medicines that have the same quality as more expensive ones, Rang-san said. Medicines under patent or made by well-known international drug firms usually demand higher prices than those made locally or by less well-known companies.

The government set a budget for medical costs worth Bt65.8 billion for the current fiscal year, which will end on September 30. So far the bill has reached about Bt55 billion.

The government for the next fiscal year plans to reduce the budget to Bt60 billion, representing 2.5 per cent of total planned expenditures.

The cost of this programme is high because it covers the families of every state official, including their parents.

Rangsan said the department for the past two years had succeeded in maintaining flat growth on medical spending, down from about 10-per-cent annual growth previously.

Attempts to reform the medical programme have not been politically popular, as efforts made by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government adversely affected the Democrat Party's standing among state officials.

The past government introduced strict procedures for hospitals and patients on medical expenses.

Police also investigated financial scams by some physicians and patients.

COMMON PRACTICE

It is still common practice among physicians to over-prescribe medicines to patients who have private insurance or government coverage - such as state officials - so they can claim maximum compensation from insurers or the state.

Private insurance firms have also looked into the possibility of participating in government medical reform.

Dhipaya Insurance is one of these, but Rangsan said one company could not handle this scheme. There must be a group of firms joining in.


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