“The new pricing regulation came into effect on Sept 29 at all three government hospitals in Phuket – Vachira, Thalang and Patong,” PPHO Chief Thanit Sermkaew told The Phuket News.
“They can now charge different fees for the three groups of foreigners – migrant labourers (from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam), foreigners staying on non-immigrant visas, and tourists,” he added.
The new rates were initially issued in a Ministry of Public Health regulation in June, and were publicly published in the Government Gazette in August.
The new regulation lists the maximum prices to be charged for standard medical services, and stipulates that government hospitals are now individually empowered to charge different rates for Thais and foreign nationals, with foreigners classified into three groups.
Group 1 comprises Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam nationals as well as stateless migrant workers, and migrants permitted to enter and work in Thailand under a special bilateral agreement.
Group 2 comprises foreigners legally working or studying in Thailand, specifically those who have been granted a host of non-immigrant visas, namely Business (B), Media (M), Religion (R), Research and Science (RS) and Expert (EX), referring to the practice of skilled craftsmen or experts, as well as Education (ED), including for the purpose of observation and training.
Also included in Group 2 are foreigners staying in the country on non-immigrant visas for investment promotion, namely Investment Through BOI (IB visa), Investment Through Ministry (IM visa) and the Smart visa programme.
Group 3 comprises all tourists, visitors staying on visa on arrival, visa exemption, sport and transit visas, captains and crews, and all foreigners staying in the country on Non-Immigrant O visas.
PPHO Chief Thanit explained that government hospitals can now charge different rates for the different groups of foreigners, but are not permitted to charge more than the “ceiling” prices for the services listed in the regulation.
For services not listed in the regulation, each hospital must first set its own price and then apply to the Office of the Ministry of Public Health Permanent Secretary for approval to start charging the proposed maximum rate.
The full list of services and the prices to be charged is available – in Thai – here.
The regulation first lists the prices to be charged to Thais. The prices for the three groups of foreigners start on page 112 of the regulation.
Under the new regulation, the maximum rates must be posted for the public to see, Chief Thanit added.
“Right now the directors of the government hospitals in Phuket are looking for ways to show the pricing information in a public area at the hospitals,” he said.
Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol explained that his staff are looking for an appropriate place to let people at the hospital know about the new rates and where to find the full list.
“We don’t have a notice in our public area yet. Right now we just have a link to the regulation on our home page (click here). We are finding extra ways to share this information to the public,” he said.
“Meanwhile, people can ask about prices at any time at the cashier. We don’t mind explaining this information to patients.
“We don’t have any documents in English, but we have staff available who can explain the details to foreigners,” he added.
PPHO Chief Thanit explained that the purpose of the regulation was to set standard prices for services at all government hospitals.
“This law focuses on foreigners who do not have any health and accident insurance. Even though the rates might be different (for different groups of people), the prices are now regulated by the government, so foreigners do not need to worry about being overcharged,” he said.
“The prices charged by government hospitals are certainly cheaper than those charged by private hospitals. Government hospitals will not overcharge for their services.
“If people want to check the prices, they can ask hospital staff and the cashier. If you believe that you have been overcharged, first file a complaint with the director of that hospital. If the problem is ignored, then you can report it to the Phuket Provincial Health Office,” Chief Thanit said.
Sasiphimon Mongkon, Chief of the Phuket Provincial office of the Ministry of Commerce, has confirmed to The Phuket News that all private hospitals in Phuket are now complying with the order to display their medicine prices, and that all the prices have now been uploaded to a special website set up by the Department of Internal Trade where people can check and compare prices for themselves.
The website, currently available in Thai language only, can be found here.
“Every private hospital in Phuket is now registered and has set up its assigned QR code in a public area for people to see. They have all posted a notice with the QR code at their cashier points, medicine room areas and their public relations counters,” Ms Sasiphimon said.
Ms Sasiphimon confirmed that the regulation to display medicine prices not only does not apply to government hospitals but also currently does not apply to private clinics and doctors.
“We are waiting for further discussion by the Department of Internal Trade about that,” she said.
Following the launch of the searchable website listing medicine prices charged by private hospitals throughout the country, Whichai Phochanakij, Director-General of the Internal Trade Department, yesterday (Oct 15) unveiled 164 private hospitals that had been rated “green”, meaning they offer “friendly medicine pricing for patients”.
The 164 hospitals, of 354 nationwide, were assessed using three criteria: prices charged of up to 100% higher than the average retail price; prices 50% lower than the average prices of similar items sold by private hospital peers; and no price complaints within the past one year, explained a report by the Bangkok Post. (See story here.)
The list of 164 hospitals was posted on the Thai-language version of the Department of Internal Trade website. (Click here.)
The full list can be found here.
The department has been dividing 354 private hospitals nationwide into three categories: red (high prices), yellow (medium) and green (low), Mr Whichai explained.
The levels for all hospitals will be posted on the department's website over the next couple of weeks, he said.
Information the grade of each private hospital, once made available, will enable people to gauge whether or not they can afford them.
The department has partnered with Chulalongkorn University to study the reference prices of medicines, medical supplies and medical services based on academic principles, transparency and fairness so that consumers can check prices before making the decision to pay for and receive treatment at private hospitals.
The first focus of the study will be on 100 popular medicines such as painkillers and antibiotics.
The study of the reference prices of medicines is nearly complete, while the study on medical supplies and services is expected to conclude in the next six months, Mr Whichai said.
According to Mr Whichai, the department will set up a panel to offer emblems to green-rated hospitals to reward them and raise public awareness about the hospitals' transparency and fairness in prices charged for medicines and medical supplies.
The move will also encourage hospitals that are rated red and yellow to make themselves more amenable to patients.
Names of the red- and yellow-rated hospitals will be announced later, Mr Whichai noted.
Currently, Mission Hospital Phuket is the only privately run hospital in Phuket to be given a “green” rating.
A price comparison check through the searchable website for the common antibiotic amoxicillin revealed that Mission Hospital charged B41.80 per unit of one product containing the antibiotic (Amoksiklav 2X).
Of the three remaining private hospitals on the island, one charged B80 per unit for the same product, while another charged B95 per unit and a third charged B217 per unit for exactly the same drug.
NO MAN’S LAND
While the new regulation for medical service prices applies to government hospitals only, and the new regulation on publicly displaying medicine prices applies to private hospitals only, somehow the Phuket Provincial Hospital, located in Rassada on the east side of Phuket Town, has so far escaped being held accountable to either law.
The hospital is a government-owned facility with Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, OrBorJor) owning the buildings, while Thonburi Hospital Co Ltd provides the medical services at the site. (See website here.)
Chief Thanit confirmed that the new regulation on the maximum medical service prices for government hospitals does not apply to the Phuket Provincial Hospital.
“That hospital is operated by the OrBorJor It is not operated under the Ministry of Public Health,” Chief Thanit told The Phuket News.
At the same time, Phuket Commerce Chief Ms Sasiphimon told The Phuket News that the Phuket Provincial Hospital is not being considered a private hospital regarding the new regulation requiring private hospitals to publicly display the prices and other information of the medicines they dispense.
Exactly how that could be possible The Phuket News has yet to learn.