The Thai Ministry of Public Health clarified that the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) could be applied for Covid-19 patients in emergency cases only due to less critical and hospitalized cases in the country.
Dr. Thongchai Kiratihatthayakon, the Ministry’s Deputy Permanent representative, stated yesterday, February 14th, that the government had provided the COVID UCEP free treatment for Thai people for two years. However, 90 percent of today’s infections were having mild symptoms or asymptomatic and were treated either under Home Isolation (HI) or Community Isolation (CI) while only 10 percent were more serious cases that require hospitalization.
Therefore, the UCEP scheme would now return to its normal functionalities in which it would cancel the right to free Covid-19 treatment in all hospitals. The patients could instead use their medical rights to access health care services for free treatment. This would help reserve hospital beds critically ill Covid-19 patients and other in-patients.
TPN adds that, in basic terms, this means free non-emergency Covid-19 treatment would need to be at the “assigned” government hospital of a resident, based on their permanent residence, and not any hospital in the country, as with all normal treatment. This would not cause any major changes for the vast majority of foreigners who already pay for treatment at their own expense/insurance, save those with work permits and Thai social security insurance. In the latter case, this means a foreigner would need to go to the hospital on record with their work permit/Social security for free treatment for non-emergency cases.
TPN notes, however, that some private insurance providers have also begun adjustments on insurance policies covering quarantine or isolation without symptoms and foreigners should carefully check their policies as Thailand has yet to announce any changes to policies around compulsory quarantine if positive for Covid-19, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms.
Dr. Thongchai said: “From now on, if anyone went to a private hospital and tested positive for Covid-19, they couldn’t ask for hospitalization right away, especially when they had no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. They could go for the HI or CI system instead. The UCEP scheme would be only for Covid-19 patients who are critically ill, such as shock, unconsciousness, severe shortness of breath, weak limbs, etc. Many people were taking up hospital services with zero symptoms at private hospitals which delays care for other medical conditions.”
The exact date of the change, however, was not yet made a hundred percent clear, likely early March.
Dr. Thares Krasanairawiwong, Director-General of the Department of Health Service Support of the Ministry of Health, added that the Department had agreed to adjust the guidelines for receiving Covid-19 treatment services for free for Thai people who held government’s health care such as Universal Coverage Scheme, Social Security, Government Welfares, etc.
“Patients with mild symptoms or who were asymptomatic would remain in the home isolation system. And we would make sure that the UCEP scheme would facilitate and allow equal access for every patient in network hospitals. In conclusion, it was a free treatment according to rights. But if anyone wished to be treated at other hospitals or private hospitals that were not an emergency case, they will have to pay their own expenses,” the Director-General added.
Additionally, Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha of Chulalongkorn University expressed his opinion towards the government’s idea of planning to remove the disease from the emergency medical services as he felt it was not the time to declare the Covid-19 as an endemic disease anytime soon.
He stated online yesterday: “If considered by the rules, it was still impossible to declare Covid-19 as an endemic disease because being endemic means that the disease can be characterized by its behaviors with clear identification of its occurrence in months or seasons or how many people would be affected and to what extent the disease causes serious illness and death. Simply speaking, the endemic disease must be able to clearly be put out with certain methods.”
The Ministry of Public Health, meanwhile, continues to state that changing the universal free coverage at any hospital doesn’t mean they will immediately call Covid-19 endemic, but plan to do so later in the year. No specific date, however, has been given.
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