Activists urge health law halt

More than 1,000 health insurance advocates led by People’s Health Systems Movement gather in front of Government House to demand the government scrap planned amendments to the National Health Security Act. (Photo by Thanarak Khunton)

A group of more than 1,000 health insurance advocates have called on the government to halt its move to amend the national health security law.

They argued the amendment will benefit health service providers rather than the public.

The group calling itself People’s Health Systems Movement gathered Tuesday outside Government House to hand in their demand that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha stop the process of revising the 2002 National Health Security Act.

Malinee Phawilai, acting director of the government’s public complaints centre, accepted the demands and said she will pass on the matter to the prime minister as well as the Public Health Ministry. The group then dispersed.

Supatra Nakhapiew, the group’s spokesman, said it wants the prime minister to scrap the current revision process and start a new one to ensure more public participation. Some issues go against the principle of universal health insurance and need to be addressed, Ms Supatra said.

One concern is that the committee responsible for looking into the revisions has little public representation. Of the 26 committee members, 24 are health service providers and government officials, with only two representatives from the civil sector.

The group suspects the amendment may benefit service providers. Public hearings on the amendment will be held in only four major provinces though more than 48 million people will be affected by the bill, she said.

Hearings with community residents will be carried out in Songkhla on June 10; in Chiang Mai on June 11; in Khon Kaen on June 17 and at the Centara Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre in Bangkok on June 18.

A hearing with industry experts will be conducted on June 20-21.

Tuenjai Samarnmit, a member of the group’s central region chapter, said efforts were being made to amend the bill so as to prevent public participation.

Non-profit organisations would not be allowed to receive funding from the National Health Security Fund to jointly run health services.

Former public health minister Mongkol Na Songkhla wrote on Facebook that some health service providers were attempting to push for an amendment that gave them the power to manage the National Health Security Office (NHSO).

The Office of the Council of State is reviewing the bill, which covers changes in 14 areas.

Areas of revision include public health services, the National Health Security Committee, the NHSO’s management, the National Health Security Fund, and the committee on public health quality and service improvement.

The objective of the revisions is to provide better benefits to people and tackle the problems which the NHSO has faced in making the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UC) scheme more sustainable, said the government.

The UC scheme or “30-baht gold card” was initiated in 2002 for people who are neither private sector employees nor government employees, to ensure they have access to health care and receive government health subsidies.

It reportedly suffered because of lack of government funding.

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