Mar 24, 2018 Volume 391 Number 10126 p1121-1236 e15-e16
Health systems development in Thailand: a solid platform for successful implementation of universal health coverage
Viroj Tangcharoensathien, Woranan Witthayapipopsakul, Warisa Panichkriangkrai, Walaiporn Patcharanarumol, Anne Mills
Thailand’s health development since the 1970s has been focused on investment in the health delivery infrastructure at the district level and below and on training the health workforce. Deliberate policies increased domestic training capacities for all cadres of health personnel and distributed them to rural and underserved areas. Since 1975, targeted insurance schemes for different population groups have improved financial access to health care until universal health coverage was implemented in 2002. Despite its low gross national income per capita in Thailand, a bold decision was made to use general taxation to finance the Universal Health Coverage Scheme without relying on contributions from members. Empirical evidence shows substantial reduction in levels of out-of-pocket payments, the incidence of catastrophic health spending, and in medical impoverishment. The scheme has also greatly reduced provincial gaps in child mortality. Certain interventions such as antiretroviral therapy and renal replacement therapy have saved the lives of adults. Well designed strategic purchasing contributed to efficiency, cost containment, and equity. Remaining challenges include preparing for an ageing society, primary prevention of non-communicable diseases, law enforcement to prevent road traffic mortality, and effective coverage of diabetes and tuberculosis control.