Private hospitals have been warned against denying medical treatment to COVID-19 patients, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha adding that changes to the Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) scheme won’t take effect until 1st March.
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 government recently removed COVID-19 from the list of conditions covered by UCEP, which means that from 1st March, those who test positive for COVID-19 but do not require critical care will have to pay their own medical bills if they choose to seek treatment at private hospitals.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said private hospitals which refuse treatment to COVID-19 patients will face penalties as outlined in the Medical Facilities Act.
“Until the policy change takes effect [on 1st March], COVID-19 patients can seek medical treatment at private hospitals without being charged,” said the spokesman.
Patients with mild symptoms will be asked to isolate at home, while those who can’t will be referred to a community isolation centre — the cost of which will be covered by other welfare schemes, such as the universal health coverage, the social security system or the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme.
Mr Thanakorn said the government will introduce a new scheme called Universal Coverage for Emergency Patients (UCEP) Plus, which will deal with COVID-19 sufferers which exhibit moderate to severe symptoms.
Separately on Sunday, the Social Security Office assured workers insured under its welfare programme that there will be no changes to its scheme.
SSO secretary Boonsong Thapchaiyuth said workers who test positive for COVID-19 will be admitted to hospitels first. If their symptoms worsen, then they will be transferred to a hospital.
However, when asked if those insured with the SSO will be referred to hospitals where their insurance was registered, or any SSO partner hospital, he admitted the office has no policy on the matter.