Putrajaya to implement health insurance gradually, deputy minister says

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the government is looking into several options with regards to the national healthcare financing system, one of which is to provide minimum coverage for all Malaysians. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the government is looking into several options with regards to the national healthcare financing system, one of which is to provide minimum coverage for all Malaysians. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Aug 5 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government will implement a national health insurance system in stages over the next few years to cover poor people, Health Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said today.

He said at the moment, 20 to 30 per cent of the population buy health insurance.

“The upper and middle class income groups have some form of health insurance coverage.

“The government needs to find a way to cover the B40 groups. If we can provide protection for the B40, almost all the population would have insurance coverage,” he said, referring to the bottom 40 per cent of income earners known as B40.

Dr Lee did not specify if the government’s proposed national health insurance system will be made compulsory.

Speaking to reporters after opening a charity food fair for Perak Thalassemia Society held at Tow Boo Keong Temple here today, Dr Lee said this would be done in stages.

“We are thinking of minimum coverage of between RM10,000 and RM20,000 per family with annual premium of below RM1,000. That is something workable,” he said, adding that the government would subsidise those who could not afford the premium.

“For those who feel the coverage amount is not enough, they can still top up on their own or even buy private health insurance,” he noted.

Dr Lee said if everyone is covered by insurance, hospitals can charge according to cost.

“Money can then be used to subsidise the insurance for everybody,” he added.

Asked how soon the social health insurance system would be implemented, Dr Lee said the government would gauge public response to medical protection for the B40 group that would be announced under the federal Budget 2019.

“We will see the response from the people then move on from there. Hopefully in the next few years,” he said, adding that Malaysia needs social health insurance eventually.

“The question is when to do it and how to do it,” he said.

Dr Lee was asked to respond to a suggestion by former Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican who proposed a mandatory health insurance system to cover rising health care costs.

The former Barisan Nasional government had proposed a national health insurance scheme called 1Care in 2011, purportedly based on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) but it was scrapped following a public outcry.

Dr Lee said the public objection towards 1Care was due to the proposed 10 per cent deduction from salaries and the suggestion for a national health financial authority to handle the money.

“There were reservations then as 10 per cent is lot. The people also did not want a new entity to handle the money. They rather the government handle the money,” he said.

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