Thai consumers and expats complain over soaring healthcare costs

Published:  17 May at 6 PM
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Consumer protection networks in Thailand are threatening legal action against the country’s Commerce Ministry for allowing huge hikes in the cost of private healthcare.

Activists belonging to several consumer protection groups have delivered a petition urging the Central Committee on the Price of Goods and Services chair Sontirat Sontijirawong to instigate price controls on medical treatment in order to deal with rampant overcharging by Thai private hospitals. The protestors want medical treatment to be considered a controlled service, thus capping the price of medicines, medical services and charges for the use of medical equipment. They also believe the system used for submitting complaints about overcharging needs to be improved.

According to local mainstream media, activists were unhappy about the Commerce Ministry’s response to the petition, even although the ministry had agreed to forward it to the appropriate committee for discussion. Consumer groups believe the ministry is simply passing the buck to another government department. Independent Consumer Protection Subcommittee chair Supatra Nacapew said the current petition is the third she’s had to submit with the same request, with no progress as a result, adding overcharging by private hospitals is causing financial hardship for patients as well as their families.

For at least a decade, Thailand has been touting its medical services as far cheaper than in first world countries, with the word ‘affordable’ also a favourite with websites recommending the country as a cheap destination for medical tourism. However, expats living long-term or retiring in the country are equally unhappy about the increase in private hospital medical bills as well as dental charges over the past several years, with essential dental services now increasingly unaffordable for many.

Thai private health insurance is cited as the answer but has also risen considerably in price and now has far more exclusions for age and previous conditions. In addition, several expat forums contain reports of poor service and refusals to honour the insurance contract. Would-be expats looking to retire in Thailand are being advised to keep on any private medical insurance they may have in their home country as it’s more reliable and only slightly more expensive than available Thai policies.
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