Bulletin of the World Health Organization, Special theme issue: accelerating universal health coverage, February 2020

Legislating for public accountability in universal health coverage, Thailand

Kanang Kantamaturapoj, Anond Kulthanmanusorn, Woranan Witthayapipopsakul, Shaheda Viriyathorn, Walaiporn Patcharanarumol, Churnrurtai Kanchanachitra, Suwit Wibulpolprasert & Viroj Tangcharoensathien

Sustaining universal health coverage requires robust active public participation in policy formation and governance. Thailand’s universal coverage scheme was implemented nationwide in 2002, allowing Thailand to achieve full population coverage through three public health insurance schemes and to demonstrate improved health outcomes. Although Thailand’s position on the World Bank worldwide governance indicators has deteriorated since 1996, provisions for voice and accountability were embedded in the legislation and design of the universal coverage scheme. We discuss how legislation related to citizens’ rights and government accountability has been implemented. Thailand’s constitution allowed citizens to submit a draft bill in which provisions on voice and accountability were successfully embedded in the legislative texts and adopted into law. The legislation mandates registration of beneficiaries, a 24/7 helpline, annual public hearings and no-fault financial assistance for patients who have experienced adverse events. Ensuring the right to health services, and that citizens’ voices are heard and action taken, requires the institutional capacity to implement legislation. For example, Thailand needed the capacity to register 47 million people and match them with the health-care provider network in the district where they live, and to re-register members who move out of their districts. Annual public hearings need to be inclusive of citizens, health-care providers, civil society organizations and stakeholders such as local governments and patient groups. Subsequent policy and management responses are important for building trust in the process and citizens’ ownership of the scheme. Annual public reporting of outcomes and performance of the scheme fosters transparency and increases citizens’ trust.

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