Minister: B40 aid for medical devices, cancer treatment only at MoH hospitals

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks at the launch of the Peka B40 scheme January 28, 2019. — Picture via Twitter/KKMPutrajaya
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad speaks at the launch of the Peka B40 scheme January 28, 2019. — Picture via Twitter/KKMPutrajaya

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) launched today a programme to counter non-communicable diseases (NCDs), where the poor will get free health screenings, medical devices, incentives to complete cancer treatment, and transport aid.

However, under the new Peka B40 scheme for the bottom 40 per cent of income-earners aged 50 and above, the maximum RM20,000 limit to purchase medical devices, RM1,000 incentive to complete cancer treatment, and transport aid (RM500 maximum for each disease for peninsular recipients and RM1,000 for Sabahans and Sarawakians) are all limited to patients at MOH hospitals. Other public facilities like university hospitals are not covered.

MOH said it will work with interested private clinics and laboratories to provide free health screenings under the scheme, which are lab tests like blood tests, diabetes control, cholesterol tests, urine tests, kidney function tests, as well as mental health checks and breast and prostate examinations if needed.

The medical devices covered under Peka B40 are stents for the heart, artificial joints, pacemakers, hearing aids, prosthetics and implants for the spine, prosthetics and orthosis to help limbs and body parts, intraocular eyeglasses, breathing therapy tools and oxygen concentrators, nutritional support aid, and wheelchairs.

“As a pilot project, Peka B40 can serve 800,000 recipients, based on the concept that whoever does screenings first will be eligible for other benefits, which is a first come, first served concept,” Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in a statement.

The RM100 million pilot project is scheduled for roll-out in the second quarter of the year, perhaps April, according to the minister.

Dzulkefly told reporters later that the figure of 800,000 from the 3.94 million recipients of the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) cash aid aged 50 and above was derived from the ministry’s own data and estimates.

“We have a mapping of the whole country,” he said at a press conference.

“We know — Kulim Bandar Baru, Kuala Selangor, Gopeng, Gua Musang — we know where they are, we also know the total who haven’t been diagnosed. So it’s very targeted.”

He added that MOH hoped to integrate all of its data this year, amid silence over progress of the Malaysian Health Data Warehouse, a patient data repository, that the previous Barisan Nasional administration launched in 2017.

Dzulkefly said Peka B40 would be managed by ProtectHealth Corporation Sdn Bhd (PHCorp), a non-profit company owned 100 per cent by the government under MOH.

He said the difference between the mySalam health insurance scheme for B40 run by the Finance Ministry and MOH’s Peka B40 scheme was that the former was an “insurance programme” targeted at BSH recipients aged between 18 and 55, while the latter served BSH recipients aged 50 and above.

“The focus (of mySalam) is to increase insurance and takaful programmes,” Dzulkefly said in a speech at the launch of Peka B40.

“It is meant to provide protection to a B40 family who will face disruptions and difficulties when a family member is diagnosed with a critical illness, particularly cancer.”

The mySalam health insurance scheme, to which insurance company Great Eastern Takaful Berhad has contributed RM2 billion, is expected to benefit 3.69 million people from the B40 group who would get a one-off payment of RM8,000 if they suffered one of 36 critical illnesses. They would also get up to RM700 annually if they sought treatment at hospitals for a maximum of 14 days a year.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng reportedly said yesterday that mySalam would only cover treatment at public hospitals, not private.

“The complementariness of mySalam and Peka B40 will ensure that the benefits of both schemes do not clash,” Dzulkefly said today.

He said Peka B40 focused on health screenings for NCDs, a “preventive and promotive approach”, stressing that early diagnosis was critical to prevent the need for complicated and expensive treatment.

When asked at the press conference why the government did not expand the programme to people in their 30s and 40s, Dzulkefly acknowledged that younger and younger people were now suffering from NCDs.

“But we are giving the 50 age group because we know the disease is age-related. As we get older, we get more diseases like cancer, diabetes and hypertension.”

*A previous version of this story inadvertently named Great Eastern Life as the contributor of RM2 billion to mySalam, when it is in fact Great Eastern Takaful Berhad. The error is regretted and has since been corrected.