Defining the Benefit Package of Thailand Universal Coverage Scheme: From Pragmatism to Sophistication

Document Type: Editorial

Authors

1 International Health Policy Program, Ministry of Public Health, Nonthaburi, Thailand

2 National Health Security Office, Bangkok, Thailand

Abstract

Benefit package is crucial for implementing universal health coverage (UHC). This editorial analyses how the benefit package of the Thai Universal Coverage Scheme (UC Scheme) evolved from an implicit comprehensive package which covered all conditions and interventions (with a few exceptions), to additional explicit positive lists. In 2002 when the Thai UC Scheme was launched; the comprehensive benefit package, including medicines in the national essential list of medicines, formerly offered by the previous schemes were pragmatically adopted. Later, when capacities of producing evidence on health technology assessment (HTA) increased, rigorous assessment of cost effectiveness is mandatorily required for inclusion of new interventions into the Thai UC Scheme benefit package. This contributed to evidence-informed policy decisions. To prevent emptied promises, whichever policy choices are made about the benefit package, either using a negative or a positive list, developing country governments need to make quality health services available and accessible by the entire population. Political decision on benefit package should be informed by evidence on cost effectiveness, equity dimension and health system capacity to deliver equitable services. Low- and middle-income countries need to strengthen HTA capacity to generate evidence and inform policies.

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