Groups con­cerned over health­care fi­nanc­ing sys­tem

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - By LOH FOON FONG foon­[email protected]­tar.com.my Why did the Fi­nance Min­istry an­nounce a wide-sweep­ing in­ter­ven­tion which has a great im­pact on the health sec­tor? Dr Chee Heng Leng

KUALA LUMPUR: The Fi­nance Min­istry is tar­get­ing to an­nounce more de­tails on the Health Pro­tec­tion Fund by this month but con­cerned par­ties have com­plained that they have not be con­sulted about the scheme and are con­cerned it will af­fect the coun­try’s health­care fi­nanc­ing sys­tem.

They asked why the Health Min­istry was not in­volved in de­cid­ing the health­care fi­nanc­ing scheme, claim­ing that it ap­peared that the Fi­nance Min­istry had bull­dozed it.

A source said the Fi­nance Min­istry was work­ing to­wards its launch some­time this month and more de­tails would be re­vealed soon, but de­clined to say more.

But Cit­i­zens’ Health Ini­tia­tive mem­ber Dr Chee Heng Leng, a health­care an­a­lyst said there has not been any en­gage­ments with NGOs that fo­cuses on health, health­care ser­vices and health­care fi­nanc­ing sys­tems.

“Has the min­istry con­sid­ered the im­pact of such a short term mea­sure on the whole health­care fi­nanc­ing struc­ture of the coun­try, as well as the long-term di­rec­tion of the health­care sec­tor?” she asked.

Dr Chee said pri­vate health in­sur­ance was risk rated and not com­mu­nity rated in that those with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions would not be cov­ered or cov­ered with higher pre­mi­ums while older peo­ple would pay higher pre­mi­ums – these would im­pact ac­cess and eq­uity and weaken the health cov­er­age.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Lim Guan Eng an­nounced in his Bud­get 2019 speech on Nov 2 the cre­ation of the fund which will pro­vide free pro­tec­tion against top four crit­i­cal ill­ness up to a sum of RM8,000 and up to 14 days of hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion ben­e­fits start­ing in Jan­uary.

How­ever, on Nov 24, he said the pro­tec­tion would be ex­tended to 36 ma­jor crit­i­cal ill­nesses.

The hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion in­come cover would be at RM50 per day or RM700 per an­num, he said.

Great East­ern Life In­sur­ance has agreed to con­trib­ute the ini­tial seed fund­ing of RM2­bil to the fund, which would be man­aged by Bank Ne­gara Malaysia, he said.

Dr Chee also asked if the min­istry had con­sulted the Health Min­istry be­cause it did not come across as such.

“Why did the Fi­nance Min­istry an­nounce a wide-sweep­ing in­ter­ven­tion which has a great im­pact on the health sec­tor? For ob­serv- ers look­ing in from out­side, it looks like the Health Min­istry is not in­volved in this,” she said.

Be­fore the Bud­get 2019 was an­nounced, Health Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Dr Dzulke­fly Ah­mad had de­nied in Par­lia­ment of any so­cial health in­sur­ance scheme or the in­volve­ment of a pri­vate in­sur­ance com­pany but Lim an­nounced the Health Pro­tec­tion Fund un­der the purview of the Fi­nance Min­istry dur­ing his speech.

For­mer Sun­gai Siput MP (2008 to 2018) Dr Michael Jeyaku­mar De­varaj said Parti Sosialis Malaysia’s (PSM) let­ters of re­quest for a meet­ing with the Fi­nance Min­istry in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber went un­replied.

He said there should be en­gage­ments held with health fo­cused NGOs, schol­ars and ac­tivists.

“Health­care is com­plex. Any­thing that pro­motes pri­vate in­ter­ests can un­der­mine the pub­lic sec­tor,” he said.

Dr Jeyaku­mar said he had also met with Dr Dzulke­fly ear­lier but he did not have the de­tails.

On Nov 16, it was re­ported that for­eign in­sur­ers will be given the op­tion to di­vest their stakes in their Malaysian units or con­trib­ute to the B40 Na­tional Health Pro­tec­tion Fund, to com­ply with a Bank Ne­gara rul­ing to sell at least 30% of their stakes to lo­cal par­ties.

The for­eign own­er­ship limit for Malaysian in­sur­ers was set at 70% in 2009 un­der the fi­nan­cial lib­er­al­i­sa­tion pol­icy.

Higher for­eign share­hold­ings were ac­corded on a case-by-case ba­sis.

When con­tacted, Dr Dzulke­fly said the min­istry would meet with the Fi­nance Min­istry soon on this and would re­spond with more com­ments later.

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