Minister: mySalam recipients not Great Eastern ‘customers’, but insurers can promote products

Lim Guan Eng speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya February 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Lim Guan Eng speaks during a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Putrajaya February 26, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 26 — The 3.7 million poor Malaysians covered under the government-owned mySalam health insurance scheme are not Great Eastern’s customers, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng clarified today.

“They’re not customers of Great Eastern; they’re customers of the Malaysian government,” Lim told a press conference here.

His special officer Tony Pua said the Singapore-based insurance company would have access to the government’s database on the bottom 40 per cent (B40) to process their claims under mySalam, but their data is protected under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).

However, the ministry’s FAQs about mySalam said that “all participating insurers will work with BNM (Bank Negara Malaysia) and the MOF (Ministry of Finance) to introduce approved products to encourage greater consumption of insurance/ takaful products to ensure higher insurance / takaful coverage among the under-covered B40 group”, citing BNM’s “Tenang” micro-insurance product as an example.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) claimed recently in the Semenyih campaign that mySalam only benefited Great Eastern, pointing out that the insurance company has gained RM2 billion worth of business for the next five years.

Great Eastern Takaful Berhad is administering the mySalam scheme as its Singapore-based parent company, Great Eastern Holdings Limited, gave the Malaysian government RM2 billion in exchange for not having to divest 30 per cent of their shareholdings to local investors. The government is using the RM2 billion contribution to pay back Great Eastern the mySalam premiums at cost for 3.7 million people over five years.

FAQs on the mySalam website said Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) was reviewing this contribution calculation.

“As part of the arrangement with GEH (Great Eastern Holdings), in the event that the takaful claims over the five-year period amount to less than the total contributions paid for the takaful, the excess will be reimbursed back to the mySalam Trust Fund,” it said.

The website also said the government expected to enlarge the trust fund beyond five years with additional contributions from Great Eastern Holdings and other insurance companies.

“At the same time, should the recipients graduate from the B40 income threshold and wish to then purchase their own private insurance, they are free to do so with any private insurer, including GETB (Great Eastern Takaful Berhad).”

The government also stressed that mySalam was not intended to be a comprehensive social health insurance scheme, but merely a stepping stone for the government to provide some coverage for those most in need.

“The mySalam scheme is designed based on findings by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health and BNM, which indicate that many Malaysians from the lower income groups do not seek medical treatment because of the lack of emergency savings, as well as the immediate loss of income due to hospitalisation,” said the mySalam website.

The government-run mySalam, which aims to cover 3.69 million people in the B40 group aged 18 to 55 and their spouses, provides a one-time RM8,000 lump sum payment upon diagnosis of one of 36 critical illnesses — including cancer and heart disease — and RM50 daily hospitalisation income replacement up to RM700 per annum at any government hospital.

Recipients who are diagnosed with one of the 36 critical illnesses at a private medical facility but are receiving treatment at a government hospital can make a claim, like those who got diagnosed or treated at any government hospital. But the mySalam website also states “all claims must be submitted along with the required documents verified by a doctor from a government hospital.”

According to the website, the insurer will process the payment for successful claims by crediting the money directly into the recipient’s account as registered under the government’s Bantuan Sara Hidup cash aid scheme.

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