Press enter to see results or esc to cancel.

The Challenges of Thailand’s Public Healthcare System

Hailed as having one of the most efficient and successful healthcare models in Southeast Asia, Thailand is home to thousands of public and private medical facilities and is recognized as a global destination for medical tourism.

This could not have been achieved without the support of a stable and sustainable public healthcare program – the universal coverage system (UCS) – which helps share a considerable amount of burden in the private healthcare sector.

According to the 2021 Global Security Index Report, Thailand ranked 5th in the world in terms of countries with the strongest health security. During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Thailand was widely praised for its successful prevention and control of COVID-19. 

Thailand’s impressive ranking achievement reflects the country’s remarkable resilience and healthcare development over the past 50 years. However, despite the undeniable benefits of the UCS, which boasts affordable costs and robust government backing, there are still some challenges to be faced.

In this article by Pacific Prime Thailand, we will discuss the challenges faced by the public healthcare scheme and why securing private health insurance is the best recommendation for expats and their families living in Thailand.

The Universal Coverage Scheme in Thailand

Implemented in 2001, the UCS has miraculously turned the insured population rate in Thailand from 25% in 2001 to almost 100% today, which allows at least 50 million citizens to access essential health services and major benefits at a very affordable cost. In fact, it was regarded as one of the most ambitious healthcare reforms ever undertaken in a developing country.

Other public health fundings include the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme (CSMBS), the Worker Compensation Scheme (WCS), and the Social Security Scheme (SSS). However, the UCS covers the majority of the population with inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care coverage.

If you are an expat, then you can expect to pay a fee for medical services at government hospitals, unless you have expat health insurance, group health insurance coverage, or a Social Security Card.

Together, these schemes give the majority of the population some form of medical coverage, and those that wish to go to a private health provider can do so by securing private health insurance.

Challenges Faced by the UCS

As impeccable as it may seem, just like healthcare models in other countries, the UCS is faced with a myriad of concerns; chief among them being financial issues and aging populations, which is why the government has been pressed to revamp the scheme. The main challenges include:

Aging Population

Thailand is among the fastest aging countries in the world. 12 million of Thailand’s 71 million citizens are classified as elderly, according to the World Health Organization. Since 2005, the Land of Smiles has been referred to as an “aged society,” with 10% of the population being 60 or older. The aging population is predicted to rise to 28% over the next decade, making Thailand a “super-aged society.”

Elderly citizens are more likely to develop chronic or even critical diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease than their more youthful counterparts. These non-communicable diseases (NCDs) usually require large budgets to treat effectively, not to mention the additional geriatric resources needed for elderly care. 

The Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has even warned that the aging society will push the country’s healthcare costs to THB ฿1.4 trillion per year within the next 15 years.

Growing Budget

Increasing financial pressures have made more people question the sustainability of the Thai healthcare system. These pressures do not stem only from long-term care expenditure for the aging population, but also from diminishing general tax revenue in Thailand that is expected in the near future due to a shrinking labor force. 

Last year presented significant challenges for the Thai government and the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which is responsible for managing the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS). The COVID-19 pandemic escalated the situation by causing a drop in revenue and budgetary allocations for pandemic response efforts. This placed immense pressure on the government to manage budgetary concerns.

The cabinet approved a 2.3% increase in the NHSO budget for the 2022 fiscal year, from THB ฿194 billion in 2021 to almost THB ฿199 billion. The budget will also increase from THB ฿3,719 to 3,798 per person, covering the cost of healthcare services for UCS beneficiaries.

Secure Private Health Insurance

Expats living in Thailand will greatly benefit from having private health insurance as it grants access to private hospitals and facilities, as well as international standards of medical care and treatment. Expats with a growing young family can be reassured that their needs will be met no matter their medical issue. Multilingual staff will definitely be on hand to help you navigate through the system, with some hospitals even allocating a guide to help take you through your hospital journey, especially for outpatient appointments. 

A suitable private health insurance plan with the right level of coverage and limits will certainly help cover some if not all of the expected costs. Concerned about paying upfront? Get a quote that has direct billing added so you can have peace of mind when settling your medical fees.

Further reading: Tips for expats visiting hospitals in Thailand

Even though the public healthcare system has developed over the last 50 years, the standards for expats can be inadequate for their specific needs. However, it’s worth mentioning that this does not apply to every public hospital.

Examples of well-established public hospitals include King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and Siriraj Hospital, which have highly-qualified medical professionals that are experienced in their field of work. But due to their popularity, the hospitals can be exceptionally busy as locals flock to these hospitals for medical treatment. Due to their high demand, these hospitals also offer private services for those that want to avoid queues and get seen quicker. 

You can learn more by contacting the hospitals or better still, speak to one of Pacific Prime Thailand’s insurance experts who can recommend the right plan that includes coverage for both hospitals and more.

Pacific Prime Thailand is Here to Help

With more than 20 years of experience in the field, Pacific Prime Thailand is your trusted partner for all matters related to insurance. We work with both local and international insurers in Thailand and offer a wide range of insurance plans that meet our client’s needs, including family insurance, individual health insurance, maternity insurance, retiree insurance, and more.

For the latest health insurance trends, you can download our free Cost of International Health Insurance Report 2021-2022, we’ve compiled price data of the international private medical insurance (IPMI) premiums in 100 locations across the globe. Within this report, you’ll find a ranking for the average costs of insurance for individual and family plans. Delve into the latest global and regional insurance trends and key findings along with actionable steps from industry experts. 

Get a Quote CTA Banner

Pete Meelarbsuk is a Content Creator at Pacific Prime. With 3+ years of experience in content writing in different industries, he is a well-rounded person ready to tackle any piece. Writing is something that he enjoys and is confident in.

He’s a third culture kid who left Thailand when he was 5 before returning at 17. He attended an American school in New Delhi, India before moving to a private school in London, England. Pete has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Bangkok University International College. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games, watching movies and watching football. He also writes movie reviews on his personal blog.