Migrant workers gain access to universal healthcare in Thailand

An estimated 1.5 million undocumented migrants registered with the Ministry of Public Health in 2018.

Thailand is seeking to expand universal healthcare coverage (UHC) to every inch of the country regardless of citizenship, in a development that bodes well for the millions of migrants in the country who can now gain access to the country’s internationally renowned healthcare system. 

Hailing largely from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, there are roughly 3.9 million documented and undocument migrants in Thailand, according to UN data. Of this number, around three to four million migrant workers in the country remain uninsured due to their undocumented status, Dr. Phusit Prakongsai, acting senior advisor on health promotion at Thailand’s Ministry of Health, revealed at the at the 2019 Healthcare Asia Forum in Bangkok although this could soon change as the government doubles down efforts to expand the UHC net to the migrant demographic.

Thailand, which prides itself as the region’s poster child for universal healthcare (UHC), has come a long way to provide affordable and quality healthcare to its 69.81 million population. From fragmented public health insurance schemes and a large uninsured population back in 1963, Thailand implemented UHC in 2002, when the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita stood at a mere $1870.

“Thailand was not, and is not, a rich country. We fall under the lower middle income country but we still managed to achieve UHC. There are a lot of predictions that the country will not survive with its UHC programme given the rising medical costs, but we are positive that we will be able to continue this with more government initiatives,” Dr. Prakongsai stressed in his presentation.

The country has three public health insurance schemes covering almost all of its population, comprising of the civil servant medical benefit scheme (CSMBS), a tax financed scheme for government employees and dependents that covers approximately 8% of its citizens. The social health insurance (SHI), on the other hand, is a payroll tax-financed scheme for 17% of the population working for the private sector. The remaining 75% or roughly 49 million citizens are insured through a basic UHC.

Dr. Prakongsai noted that between one to 1.2 million immigrants are covered under the social health insurance because of their ‘documented’ status. But for the remaining immigrant population, access to affordable healthcare services is beyond their reach.

That said, the Ministry of Public Health is trying to take the necessary steps to ensure thatundocumented, immigrant workers can still access services under the nation’s basic universal healthcare plan.

“Last year we had about 1.5 million of undocumented immigrants and dependents register with the Ministry of Public Health,” Dr. Prakongsai highlighted. “The Ministry of Public Health is trying to make the migrants' health insurance scheme be compulsory, but at the moment it is hard since many are still working underground somewhere in Thailand.”

Meanwhile, the government is looking at how it can extend the benefits of its UHC coverage to patients, regardless of whether or not they are a citizen. 

Join Healthcare Asia Magazine community
Since you're here...

...there are many ways you can work with us to advertise your company and connect to your customers. Our team can help you dight and create an advertising campaign, in print and digital, on this website and in print magazine.

We can also organize a real life or digital event for you and find thought leader speakers as well as industry leaders, who could be your potential partners, to join the event. We also run some awards programmes which give you an opportunity to be recognized for your achievements during the year and you can join this as a participant or a sponsor.

Let us help you drive your business forward with a good partnership!

The loss will not have any material impact on the company.
Around 66 hotels have submitted to offer their rooms for hotel isolation.
He has been acting as group CEO since September 2021.
Bidding for these projects may commence in the first half of 2022.
Cardholders can now seek treatment from units where they did not register.
The system will be implemented this year.
The new facility will provide care for Indonesians who get treatment overseas.
The system was the only one of its kind in the country.
Healthcare Asia will be back on 3 January 2022. 
The additional patents aim to address supply issues.
Evusheld is a long-acting antibody candidate for COVID-19 treatment.
Despite NCDs accounting for 41 million deaths annually, they are still healthcare's 'blind spot', expert says.
The gala was held in celebration of World AIDS Day 2021.
It won in the International Human-Machine Competition on Diabetes Management.
The new facility is the first of its kind in Singapore.