The neo-liberals cannot tolerate the universal health care system, but Thailand really needs a properly funded welfare state

Numnual  Yapparat

Narong Sahmetapat is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health who helped Sutep to topple the Pua Thai government. Now he is trying very hard to dismantle the universal healthcare service.

Narong wants to bring in the co-payment system and demands that patients need to pay 30-50% for the costs of health care. Some people in his administrative team even said that the free healthcare service would encourage “too many” people to go to hospital. These doctors appear to be ridiculously insensitive because they assume that people love falling ill so that they can have a good time in hospital.

They also complained that “these days people are living longer and that will cost much more to look after them all”. Perhaps the solution would be to kill everyone once they reach retirement age?

The reality is that working people are forced to work hard and they pay their taxes. When they get older they are then blamed for being a “burden”.

It does not require a genius to see where the real problem is. It is the attitude of neo-liberal conservative doctors. They are rally dangerous for the public health system in general.

What are their concerns? Financially, they claim that they are scared that Thailand does not have enough money to maintain the universal healthcare service.

Udom Kachintorn MD Clinical Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Sirirat Hospital, has said that the current system made his hospital lose 400 million baht. He seems to put profit before patients. He went further by saying that “allowing 48 million people to access free healthcare was a mistake because half of them have the ability to pay for the cost”. I think he should be an accountant for a loan shark company rather than a doctor.

Some doctors say that healthcare should be the responsibility of the individual, not the state. This idea fits perfectly well with the junta’s neo-liberal policies. The junta legitimises these ideas by fiercely promoting individual “moral values”. It sounds very nice but it cannot solve social problems. It will widen and generate inequality in society.

The reactionaries say that people will not forget Taskin and therefore they will still be addicted to his “populism policies”. They lament that the poor will never learn to depend on themselves and they will end up asking for more help from state.

Free television channels, especially when reporting the news, love to show documentaries about elderly people who are abandoned by their children and relatives. Then the media condemns their children who fail to look after their parents when they get old.

The state gives an allowance to the elderly of only £11 per month. If you were 90 then you would be paid at £18.19 per month. If the state wanted people to look after their family then they have to increase the minimum wage. Of course they do nothing about this and reiterate that high wages will jeopardise the economy.

Thailand has plenty of money for the universal health care scheme. Look at the bloated military budget. Look at what the royals cost the tax payer. Look at the number of world class billionaires in Thailand.

The conservative elites love to blame the individual for everything in order to avoid taking responsibility. We have no need to listen to their lies. Every citizen must have the right to get a better life and living standards. In order to access healthcare services people should have no need to prove that they are very poor or are second class citizens. Thailand needs to go beyond the Taksin’s populism by demanding a decent welfare state.

Does Thailand have enough money to build welfare state?

The answer is yes. The previous elites before Taksin do not want to service the people. Therefore Taksin was very popular among the poor when he introduced the universal healthcare service. Thailand uses the regressive tax systems where the poor pay more tax than the rich. The current tax systems need to be changed and then Thailand would have enough money for welfare. Not only will we have plenty of money for the universal healthcare but also we can build a decent welfare state.

Photo: Thaipost