Thai public hospitals can now legally charge foreign nationals higher rates for services under new regulations published last Friday (Aug 30), the news website posted earlier this week. (See report here.)
The new regulations allow four tiers of rates that can be charged, depending on a patient’s nationality and visa status. Treatment costs are set at four levels: Thai nationals, foreigners from neighboring countries and working foreigners on non-immigrant visas. The fourth group consists of tourists and retirees.
“While foreigners from other Asean nations appear to pay the same rates as Thai patients, they increase significantly for the third group – which includes most expats – while retirees and tourists really get the shaft,” Coconuts Bangkok noted.
Highlighting the disparity in rates charged, a simple antibody screening costs Thais and Asean nationals B130. Most expats will pay B190 while retirees and tourists pay double – B260, the report explained.
Similarly, a HIV test will cost Thais and Asean nationals B160, working expats up to B240 and B320 for retirees/tourists.
Thailand’s medical tourism brought in an estimated B18.4 billion baht in 2018, but most seek treatment at private hospitals, the report added.
“On the higher end, a spinal MRI that costs Thais and their neighbors B18,700 jumps up to B23,375 for working expats and B28,050 for retirees/tourists,” the report noted.
Under the new regulations, published in the Government Gazette last Friday, are set to come into effect on Sept 29.
Popular expat website ThaiVisa yesterday (Sept 4) published several pages of the order translated into English. (See here.)
The new rules essentially make it legal for public hospitals to charge more of foreign nationals, something that has been a source of complaints over the years when it happened illicitly, Coconuts Bangkok noted.
However, the ThaiVisa noted that the new rates allowed were set as "maximums", leaving hospital directors the choice of charging less.
Coconuts Bangkok also pointed out that, according to some reports in the media, the Public Health Department and Hua Hin Hospital late last year agreed to refund over B20,000 to a Dutchman following years of complaints he’d been made to pay hundreds of baht in extra charges every time he traveled from Prachuab Khiri Khan for cancer treatment.
It was unclear whether the man was ever refunded the difference, the website added.
The Bangkok Post reported early last month that a disciplinary inquiry was to be conducted against two former directors of Hua Hin Hospital after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) found there were grounds for the Dutchman's complaint that he was overcharged for medical services at the hospital.
The complaint was filed against the former directors by Erwin Robert Bucher, 50, four years ago. Mr Bucher reportedly claimed he was made to pay a service fee of 300 baht per treatment for colon cancer. He has received treatment 14 times since 2015.
Prachuap Khiri Khan provincial public health officer Dr Samat Thirasak said that the issue reached the NACC, which had ruled the complaint against the two former directors was valid. (See Bangkok Post story here.)