Cabinet To Review New COVID-19 Scheme

Anutin Charnvirakul COVID-19 Vaccine Update

The Public Health Ministry plans to seek cabinet approval for a new scheme that will cover the costs for COVID-19 patients who require emergency treatment for moderate to severe symptoms.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he will present the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (Ucep) Plus scheme next week.

He said the Department of Health Service Support on Tuesday submitted for cabinet consideration a new set of criteria for spending on emergency treatment for those infected with the virus.

The new rule will provide treatment in all categories under the Ucep Plus scheme, and their rights to treatment will remain intact, Mr Charnvirakul said.

People infected with Covid are divided into three categories: green (mild or no symptoms), yellow (moderate), and red (severe).

Mr Charnvirakul insisted the new rule is not intended to cut costs but will pave the way for service, hospital beds and medical supplies to be made available for those in need.

He said doctors will make a diagnosis and decide how patients should be treated.

“It is not right for people who do not need to be hospitalised to scramble for beds reserved for those who require more intensive care,” Mr Charnvirakul said.

“When we know how to control the pandemic and treat people appropriately, we should manage hospital resources to ensure their optimal use so people who need hospital care can access it straight away.”

Mr Charnvirakul said the Public Health Ministry can issue regulations and criteria for Ucep coverage for COVID-19 patients without requiring cabinet approval.

However, the latest announcement must go before the cabinet because it involves some changes in budget management for the new Ucep Plus scheme.

Without cabinet endorsement, spending for the scheme cannot be disbursed, Mr Charnvirakul said.

Regarding a review of the Ucep scheme he approved earlier, which was originally scheduled to go in effect Tuesday, Mr Charnvirakul said the secretariat of the cabinet is expected to publish an announcement in the Royal Gazette on 16th March or 1st April.

Under the Ucep scheme, patients can seek treatment at any medical facility for three days, after which they will be transferred to a hospital where their state welfare and/or health insurance scheme is registered.

However, the Public Health Ministry recently announced that as of 1st March, COVID-19 treatments would no longer be covered, except for patients who are in critical condition.

At present, all costs associated with COVID-19 treatments are covered by the scheme, meaning patients can seek treatment at any hospital free of charge.

But the government previously decided to delay a plan to exclude COVID-19 coverage from the Ucep scheme as the number of new infections caused by the Omicron variant continues to rise, sparking concerns about the health system.

Dr Jadet Thammathat-aree, secretary-general of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), said on Wednesday its 1330 hotline will assume a new role of screening people who test positive using antigen test kits, in addition to taking calls inquiring about beds for COVID-19 sufferers.

Dr Thammathat-aree said if those who test positive do not want to go to hospital, they can contact the hotline so the NHSO will work with hospitals to monitor their condition.

If they are not among several at-risk groups such as the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, they will be advised to self-isolate at home as outpatients, and will be looked after via the tele-health system, Dr Thammathat-aree said.

Thailand logged 22,197 new cases and 45 more COVID-19 fatalities during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry reported on Wednesday morning.