A think tank has voiced concern over the government’s apparent neglect of the need to consult stakeholders on its proposal to introduce health insurance for the poor.
The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy noted that there had been no public disclosure of the details of the scheme, which is meant for Malaysians who earn RM3,900 a month or less, known as the B40 group.
Galen chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib he was disconcerted to read news reports that the government was rushing to table the proposal in the Dewan Rakyat this October. He noted a report that said even the Malaysian Medical Association had not been consulted.
“The government should take a step back and reassess its approach regarding this initiative,” he said. “It is necessary to learn from the failed experience of 1Care.”
1Care was proposed as a national health insurance scheme in 2011, but was put on hold following widespread public criticism.
One of the lessons to be learned from the 1Care experience, according to Azrul, is the need for rigorous consultation, not only with stakeholders, but with the public at large.
He said the proposed scheme, as briefly described by Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, could in fact increase the hardship of the targeted group.
Lee referred to the proposal as a “health insurance protection scheme” and said it would help the B40 group get treatment at government and private hospitals. He indicated that the premium would be somewhere between RM10,000 and RM20,000 a year per family to cover hospital bills.
Azrul said he believed the scheme would be sustainable only if subscriptions were open to all Malaysians although the main beneficiaries would be people in the B40 group.
“If everyone contributes, then those who also have private insurance can opt for either government or private healthcare,” he said.
He suggested that the government set up a body to manage the insurance funds, allowing it to invest such funds so that they would grow.
Government backbencher Charles Santiago also complained about the lack of consultation and information regarding the scheme.
He asked whether it was a Pakatan Harapan (PH) proposal or “something rehashed” from the Barisan Nasional proposal.
“If it is a PH proposal, then where is the consultation?”
The Klang MP also questioned why the government was moving away from its “fundamental duty of providing healthcare” to opt for an insurance scheme.
He said the government should instead focus on bringing down medicine costs and fighting corruption in the health ministry.