Minister dismisses abuse fears in mySalam health scheme

(From left) Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, Lim Guan Eng, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Khor Hock Seng and Amiruddin Hamzah pose for photos with a mock cheque during the launch of mySalam in Putrajaya January 24, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
(From left) Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad, Lim Guan Eng, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Khor Hock Seng and Amiruddin Hamzah pose for photos with a mock cheque during the launch of mySalam in Putrajaya January 24, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 30 — Cash assistance from the federal health insurance scheme for the poor will be given directly to patients and not hospitals, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said today when rejecting concerns that the mySalam programme is vulnerable to corruption.

Lim said the RM8,000 assistance is meant for patients from the Bottom 40th per centile of income earners seeking treatment at public hospitals, and not for private hospitals.

“So how can there be corruption?” Lim said at a press conference here.

Doctor and patient groups have raised concerns about the government-run health insurance scheme for the poor as they said it lacked details and had insufficient benefits.

Among them was former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum, who said the Finance Ministry’s mySalam health insurance scheme for the Bottom 40th percentile (B40) of income earners ― to which insurance company Great Eastern Takaful Berhad is contributing a RM2 billion — must have mechanisms in place to prevent corruption.

Dr Lum claimed the scheme could encourage “corrupt practices” although he did not explain how.

There are also concerns that middlemen would be involved in the mySalam scheme and if the Health Ministry (MOH) would procure drugs via open tender or negotiations.

Dr Lum said the use of middlemen and obsolete contracts in the past caused the ministry to purchase drugs at a higher price than other countries (international reference pricing).

Great Eastern Takaful Berhad has contributed RM2 billion to the scheme, which 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 certain critical illnesses.

Besides the one-off RM8,000 payment, recipients will also get RM50 income replacements daily if they seek treatment at any government hospital for a maximum of 14 days a year, or equivalent to RM700 annually.

Lim, however, said that today he believed the poor will welcome the scheme, but in the same breath, criticised detractors for being unsupportive of government’s effort to make healthcare accessible to the poor.

“How can you not support something that would help the poor?” he said.

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