Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha wasted no time in pledging his support for the resolution by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Assembly on May 28, which called for “public sharing of information on actual prices paid by governments and other buyers for health products, and greater transparency on pharmaceutical patents, clinical trial results and other determinants of pricing along the value chain from laboratory to patient.”
The very next day (May 29) the necessary changes to the law were drafted, and within 48 hours of the resolution, on May 30, 353 private hospitals throughout the country were informed that they were now required to display the prices of 3,000 drugs, as well as the fees for medical supplies and services, so that consumers can make better-informed decisions prior to receiving treatments.
Last Sunday (June 9) the national propaganda machine made it clear via all modern media channels that this was now required, while pointing out that the government recognised studies that had shown that hospitals had charged anywhere from 300% up to a stupendous 16,000% in marked up prices – the latter being such an extravagant profit margin it would be tantamount to charging more than B50,000 for a bottle of paracetamol.
The complaints received by The Phuket News over the years about people being overcharged for basic medical services have often included the outrageous prices of basic medicines, including the seemingly mandatory bag of paracetamol on discharge from hospital. Yet the big bills are hidden in the more complex treatments, requiring more specialised medications.
The new law aims to make it more competitive between hospitals by allowing patients the freedom to make their decisions about where to obtain the medicine they will direly need, but in Phuket where are people to go? The hospital options remain the same: either one of the three government hospitals (Vachira, Patong and Thalang), the Phuket Provincial Hospital (also commonly called the OrBorJor Hospital), Mission Hospital or one of three remaining hospitals that are all owned by the same company.
The prices between the three main private hospital entities already differentiate the market to the point that patient load and services provided are the more determining factors in which hospital a Phuket resident is likely to prefer. The prices are just those that you’re stuck with in your choice of which hospital to use.
There is no indication that will change, with or without the pricing public disclosure law.