Impact of Universal Health Care Coverage on patient demand for health care services in Thailand
Fully implemented in Thailand in 2002, the Universal Health Care Coverage (UC) Program aimed to provide cheap access to health care services, for 30 baht (less than 1 U.S. dollar) per visit, to all uninsured Thais. In this paper, we studied the impact of the UC in Thailand on the demand for health care services using hospital level data. We found that the UC program was successful in increasing outpatient demand for health care, particularly the demand from the elderly and the poor. However, outpatient demand for health care dramatically increased during the first year of the program and faded away quickly in subsequent years. In contrast to outpatient demand, the number of inpatient visits and the number of days for which the inpatients were admitted at hospitals declined after the UC program was launched. In this paper, we offer our explanation of these phenomena, highlight problems associated with the UC program, and provide policy recommendations to improve the program.
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