Foreigners who seek medical treatment at public health facilities will be charged a higher deposit rate with immediate effect, announced the Ministry of Health (MOH).

The new ward and surgery rates, which were announced in a directive, reveal a fee hike of 130% and 230% respectively and will take effect immediately, according to health deputy secretary-general Datuk Mohd Shafiq Abdullah.

New deposit rates implemented to cut medical subsidies for foreigners

The new rates introduced in the directive are categorised based on different procedures and ward classes. Effective immediately, foreigners will need to pay a deposit of RM1,400 for third-class wards while the previous rate was only RM600. Should they be admitted to hospital for a surgery, they will have to pay a deposit of RM2,800 instead of RM1,200.

As for inpatient treatment in second-class wards, non-citizens will have to provide a deposit of RM3,000 compared with RM900 previously, and RM5,000 for surgery compared with the old rate of RM1,500.

Foreigners who seek treatment at executive and first-class wards will have to pay RM7,000 and RM11,000 respectively for medical and surgery – a staggering increase compared to the former rates of RM2,100 and RM3,300.

Image credit: The Star Online
Image credit: The Star Online

According to Mohd Shafiq, the decision to increase the rates was made to cut medical subsidies for non-citizens, and will be applicable to all foreigners except for those with a permanent resident (PR) status. Foreigners who are legally married to Malaysians, as well as children below the age of 12 of whom at least one parent is a Malaysian or PR holder, will also be exempted from the new rates.

Healthcare debt by foreigners total RM50 million

Malaysia is known for implementing a universal healthcare system, through which the MOH offers public health services to the population at heavily subsidised rates. While medical fees are heavily subsidised by the government for citizens, non-citizens pay a higher fee in accordance to the Fees Act (Medical) 1951 for Foreigners and are provided with treatment regardless of immigration status.

The Malaysian government first introduced separate rates for foreigners in January 2015, after it was revealed that between 30% and 40% of the subsidy in medical treatment for Malaysians was taken up by non-citizens. Since then, the ministry has decided that subsidy for foreign patients would be gradually reduced.

However, Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam announced last month that the Health Ministry is owed a total of RM50 million in unpaid medical bills by foreigners who seek treatment at government hospitals and clinics.

“This represents 84.17% of the arrears,” Subramaniam said at the time.

The revelation instigated reactions from various parties, such as Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking, who questioned why the government failed to collect the large sum of unpaid medical bills incurred by foreigners.

"How did this happen? Doesn't the government have a mechanism to ensure foreigners pay for their treatment?” he asked. "What happened to the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Scheme?"

MOH: Patients to settle bills before collecting medication

In response, officials from government hospitals have voiced out to explain that it is often difficult to recover fees spent on treating foreigners, as many cannot afford the bills incurred despite being on the Foreign Worker Hospitalisation and Surgical Medical Insurance Scheme.

It is also revealed that the relevant embassies are contacted if there are outstanding medical bills, but apart from contacting the patients’ families to settle the bills, not much else can be done.

To address the issue, the health ministry is urging medical officers to get in touch with patients’ next of kin when they are brought to the hospital for treatment, to ensure that the deposit can be paid before the patient is admitted.

Hospitals have been asked to allow patients to collect their medications only after medical bills have been settled.

Additionally, hospitals must keep records of the patient’s contact details as well as details of their next of kin before he is discharged. Should patients fail to settle their dues, hospitals should forward their details to respective missions so that demand letters can be sent to the respective individuals. MIMS

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