Thailand’s Healthcare System and Medical Legislation
A wide variety of healthcare treatments and options are available in Thailand and some medical facilities are capable of offering first class treatment and services. Individuals that are residing in larger cities are free to seek treatment from either public or private health facilities. In some rural or isolated areas of Thailand choice may be limited and there may only be public health services available.
In this section of the website we will compare Thailand’s public and private health services and discuss any recent healthcare reforms and legislation that all citizens should know about.
Public Healthcare Services
Public health facilities in Thailand can vary in standard with a number of hospitals and clinics in well developed cities like Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai being capable of providing an array of high quality services and treatments. Hospitals, polyclinics and out-patient centers form the main elements of the public health system.
The Ministry of Public Health is responsible for the provision of public health services throughout Thailand and since 2002 it has adopted a policy of providing universal health care for Thai nationals. This essentially means that legalized Thai nationals are entitled to avail themselves of heavily subsidized public health services. Foreign nationals and expatriates wishing to make use of public health facilities are required to personally cover the full cost of any treatment they may receive.
The introduction of the universal health care policy is widely regarded as being the catalyst for a significant improvement in the standard of care available at public health facilities. As such, Thai nationals now enjoy greater accessibility to health care services and organizations such as the World Health Organization have been quick to pay tribute to its success.
Despite these improvements, a number of long standing issues still require attention. Primary health care services are provided by local doctors and physicians who work at polyclinics. Due to staff shortages, these doctors may be required to work at a number of polyclinics each week, with the result that a qualified doctor or physician may only be available at a certain polyclinic on a certain day. A number of cases have been documented whereby patients have been treated by a doctor at a polyclinic and upon returning to the clinic a number of days later to seek additional treatment, being told that the doctor and no other qualified personnel are present to assist. On some occasions, doctors have been known to relay instructions and advice by telephone to nurses or junior medical staff.
As a result of staff shortages at polyclinics, waiting times for consultations tend to be quite long and some smaller facilities, particularly those in heavily populated areas, can become overcrowded quite quickly. Individuals wishing to use public health facilities should also note that cash payments are required in advance of any request for treatment being approved.
Private Healthcare Services
Supplementing Thailand’s network of government run health facilities are a number of private medical hospitals and clinics which can provide a higher standard of treatment and care. Some of the more popular and well known facilities are located in Bangkok and they include the Bangkok Hospitals Group, the Bumrungrad International Hospital and the Samitivej Hospitals.
Both the Bangkok Hospitals Group and the Samitivej Hospitals operate a number of facilities throughout Thailand with some of these being awarded the JCI (Joint Commission International) accreditation. In any case, private medical facilities in Thailand operate to international standards and are capable of providing high quality medical services.
All individuals are entitled to seek treatment at a private medical facility and this includes foreign nationals, expatriates and Thai citizens. The only requirement that must be met is having the ability to pay for these services. Although the cost of private health treatment in Thailand may be less expensive compared to other countries, even in Asia, however it is still be significantly more expensive than similar treatments would be at Thailand’s public health facilities.
Payment policies are common to both public and private health facilities in that payment is expected prior to treatment being provided. As such, individuals seeking treatment must provide the required amount in cash or submit details of their Thailand health insurance plan. Please click on the link to our Thailand medical costs page for more detailed information on treatment options and their cost.
Due to the more expensive cost of treatment, private medical facilities in Thailand can typically accommodate a patient by being flexible when reservations and appointments are necessary. With excellent private medical facilities in place for costs that are, on the whole, extremely competitive, Thailand is quickly becoming one of Asia’s primary locations for medical tourism.
Thailand Healthcare Developments
Thailand continues to develop its health care system based on the 2002 declaration to introduce universal health care coverage to its citizens. While considerable results have been achieved, more remains to be done including widening access to health care in rural areas. Much of this development is inextricably linked to Thailand’s economic success and how much funding the government can afford to allocate towards health care services each year.
Much of Thailand’s population appears to be quite content with the performance of state run health facilities. The middle class and wealthier members of the population who can afford to use private health facilities will continue to do so and at present, it is clear that the pace of health care reform and development will progress in tandem with Thailand’s economic performance.
Thailand Health Insurance Information
Please contact our support and research staff here should you wish to receive additional information on Thailand’s healthcare system or any legislative development or reforms that have recently been proposed or initiated.
Also, by completing the application form at the top of this page you can direct submit your personal details and apply for information on any aspect of Thailand health insurance.