June 26, 2014 00:00 By PUANGCHOMPOO PRASERT THE NATI
HEALTH MINISTRY TO PROVIDE CHECK-UPS, SELL INSURANCE AT CHEAPER RATES
EXPECTING a massive number of Cambodian migrant workers to return to Thailand, the Public Health Ministry has dispatched teams to the border provinces of Sa Kaew, Trat, Surin and Si Sa Ket to provide health check-ups and sell them health insurance. The fee for the health check has been cut from Bt600 to Bt500 and insurance will now cost Bt1,600 instead of Bt2,200 for adults and Bt365 for children.
This is partially in response to a 2012 report about 2,000 migrant workers being at the contagious stage of tuberculosis.
In a video conference, the ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat also told provincial health chiefs about the ruling National Council for Peace and Order’s decision to have the Interior Ministry issue a 60-day identification card to migrant workers.
Workers who enter Thailand via the four provinces will be accommodated at temporary shelters while they wait to be picked up by their employers, so Narong said health officials could provide check-ups and sell the workers insurance at that point.
This move follows the Samut Sakhon model, which allowed undocumented workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to register, undergo a health check and buy health insurance, he said, adding that if this model works, it will be expanded to other provinces.
Of the 2.1 million registered migrant workers in Thailand, 1.8 million have undergone the nationality identification procedure and 300,000 workers were brought in via government-to-government agreements. Another 2 million or so are believed to be working illegally, ministry adviser Dr Supakit Sirilak said.
Of the legal workers, 400,000 are under the Social Security Office (SSO) system, while another 400,000 have bought the ministry’s health insurance, he said. This means up to 3 million workers are still without any healthcare provisions, which could lead to problems in the long run.
State hospitals end up having to shoulder Bt300 million per year to cover medical expenses of migrant workers, hence it was necessary to add these workers to the system, he said.
The SSO law, which covers people working in registered businesses, is not suitable for migrant workers who have entered the Kingdom legally to work as household help |or in the fishery or agricultural |sectors, Supakit said, adding that these workers should be put under the ministry’s insurance system instead.
The authorities’ expectation of the influx of Cambodian workers is partially based on a report last week that Phnom Penh would slash passport fees for migrant workers and those studying overseas on scholarships to just US$4 (Bt120) from $135.
However, since this lower fee is only applicable to those who can provide evidence of employment in Thailand backed by a document from the Cambodian Labour Ministry, the influx may not be too massive, a Thai critic said.