Citizens must be confident of any national health insurance policy before the government can consider employing such plans, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Subramaniam.

He was responding to doctors’ comments that were recently published in a local news article, in which they urged for a single payer, multi provider arrangement to disband the distinction between private and public hospitals.

“If we want a system where all Malaysians contribute to the health system, we must take it to the people,” he said.

Health Minister: There are other ways to bridge gap between private and public health

The current healthcare system in the country is based on a multiple-payer, multiple-provider system, where patients pay out-of-pocket or through private health insurance schemes for private healthcare services.

Public health services on the other hand, are provided to the general public at heavily subsidized fees and have payers such as the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to name a few.

In the recent news article, doctors voiced their proposal for a unified scheme that will help ease the workload at government hospitals and make private health services more accessible to the public in order to wholly improve the healthcare services available in the country.

However, Subramaniam posited that it would be difficult to convince the public of the implementation of such schemes.

“The government did try something similar five years ago with the 1Care system, but it was so badly damaged politically,” he said, citing a similar proposal from 2012, which was unsuccessful due to the lack of support and resistance from the general public.

“Malaysians are so used to the public health system that even if there is an increase from RM1 to RM2 in charges, there is a hue and cry.”

Subramaniam then reassured that efforts are being made to bridge the gap between private and public health sectors, adding that the Health Ministry will increase the number and improve the availability of facilities available in the public health sector should there be adequate funds.

National health insurance system unfair, says MEF

The proposal was also opposed by the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) which stated that such a scheme was not feasible.

“Public hospitals cater for the general health of the rakyat and the profitability of operations had never been their consideration. Private hospitals meanwhile are in the business of making profits,” said MEF executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan, further adding that implementation of a national insurance scheme for a healthcare system with different business models is unmerited.

“The government collects taxes from individuals and corporations to provide basic public services including health services,” Shamsuddin also said.

“Why collect more from the people when they have already paid for basic health services?” he queried, adding that the Malaysian government only allocates 3.8% of the national budget for health services, compared to the 10% in developed nations.

In conclusion to his stance against the proposal, Shamsuddin emphasised that implementation of standardised scheme will also be unfair to individuals from the lower health risk category, as they would be required to pay the same premium rate as those from the higher risk group. MIMS

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