Is universal health care too expensive?

7 01 2016

The military junta has, several times, floated the idea of changing the universal health care system in Thailand, introduced by Thaksin Shinawatra’s government from 2001. Each time they have, the regime has then retreated. Most recently, the “promise” to keep the scheme has sounded far less certain, with The Dictator stating, “that it was impossible for the programme to cover all the 70 million population as that would require a huge amount of budget that the government could not afford.”

As a result, doctors reportedly continue to worry about funding for the scheme. Some doctors prefer a privatized health system as this increases their incomes.

So how much does the coverage of all Thais and quite a few migrant workers cost? In a recent Prachatai report, some figures were provided.

Working on a population of 65 million and breaking down costs for bureaucrats (who continue to have a gilt-edged scheme), social security fund members and the general public, it is estimated that the total cost of health care for all Thais is between 18 and 30 billion baht a year.

Disclaimer: We can’t vouch for their accuracy, but as their are ranges used, we guess that the figures are good enough to make some comparisons. When we checked, the Budget Bureau figures for health care in 2015 seemed reasonably close to the top estimates in the Prachatai report. We welcome corrections.

Is 30 billion baht huge? Khaosod, reporting on the military budget states: “The budget to solve the problem in the south in fiscal 2016 consists of 30.176 billion baht…”.

If the military budget for operations just in the south, consider the funds allocated to maintaining the royals and their various projects in 2015: this was about 107 billion baht. The amount allocated to the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and the Royal Household Bureau alone was almost 4.2 billion baht.

On this basis, the amount spent on the health of 65 million Thais seems quite reasonable.