A Difficult Balancing Act: Policy Actors’ Perspectives on Using Economic Evaluation to Inform Health-Care Coverage Decisions under the Universal Health Insurance Coverage Scheme in Thailand
Yot Teerawattananon1 Steve Russell2
1Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program (HITAP), Ministry of Public Health, Thailand;
2School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
In Thailand, policymakers have come under increasing pressure to use economic evaluation to inform health-care resource allocation decisions, especially after the introduction of the Universal Health Insurance Coverage (UC) scheme. This article presents qualitative findings from research that assessed a range of policymakers’ perspectives on the acceptability of using economic evaluation for the development of health-care benefit packages in Thailand. The policy analysis examined their opinions about existing decision-making processes for including health interventions in the UC benefit package, their understanding of health economic evaluation, and their attitudes, acceptance, and values relating to the use of the method.
Semistructured interviews were conducted with 36 policy actors who play a major role or have some input into health resource allocation decisions within the Thai healthcare system. These included 14 senior policymakers at the national level, 5 hospital directors, 10 health professionals, and 7 academics.
Results and Conclusions
Policy actors thought that economic evaluation information was relevant for decisionmaking because of the increasing need for rationing and more transparent criteria for making UC coverage decisions. Nevertheless, they raised several difficulties with using economic evaluation that would pose barriers to its introduction,including distrust in the method, conflicting philosophical positions and priorities compared to that of “health maximization,” organizational allegiances, existing decision-making procedures that would be hard to change, and concerns about political pressure and acceptability. Keywords: decision-making, economic evaluation, healthcare benefit package, Thailand.