Kuala Lumpur, 19 January 2018 – Increased availability of innovative drugs and treatments is critical but multiple non-medical policy reforms are also needed to ensure that more Malaysians are able to survive cancer. Significant gaps in non-medical and financial support often spell the difference between life and death.
The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy today released a policy brief titled “Saving Lives and Surviving Cancer in Malaysia: Recommendations for Policymakers“. This document contains seven policy recommendations in response to concerns raised during a roundtable held last November with cancer survivors and their families, cancer NGOs, medical specialists, researchers and members of Parliment to discuss the response to cancer in the country.
Issues of concern:
- Employer-provided health insurance force cancer patients to quickly expend their claim limits in private hospitals
- Patients referred from private healthcare to public facilities appear to be penalized
- Lack of awareness that there are separate fees for treatment of certain diseases, including cancer
- Hospitals under the Ministry of Higher Education charge higher treatment fees compared to Ministry of Health hospitals
- Difficulty or inability in claiming benefits from SOCSO
- Strengthen existing government and non-government awareness programmes for early cancer detection and treatment
- Improve and increase healthcare financing to deal with catastrophic payments, through innovations such as the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme
- Reform SOCSO legislation to enable claims for chronic diseases, including cancer, regardless of disease stage
- Increase awareness, promotion and commitment to integrated cancer care, including survivorship programmes
- Establish a coherent drug price policy as part of the Malaysian National Medicines Policy
- Standardise the fee structure in all public hospitals and improve regulation of private healthcare charges
- Improve the specialist to patient ratio in the public health sector
Commenting on the policy brief, Galen Centre Chief Executive Officer, Azrul Mohd Khalib said “There are 37,000 incidences of cancer reported in Malaysia each year. One in four is likely to be diagnosed with cancer by age 75. Although, it is the 4th most common cause of death in the country, Malaysia has the highest mortality to incidence ratio in the Southeast Asia region. We can do better.”
“Demands for better and integrated care, particularly low cost or free treatment will increase as cancer becomes more common as people live longer. Surviving cancer should not be dependent on a person’s socioeconomic status, which is often the case today. The challenges or inability to access aid such as financial assistance deprives survivors of much needed support to help them through treatment and continue on with their lives. It has forced them into serious hardship and even financial catastrophe. In many cases, it has been the difference between life and death. Reform of relevant legislation such as the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969 is needed to ensure that cancer survivors are able to claim their benefits, regardless of cancer stage, while they continue to work.”
“We need to also address the concern that patients referred from private healthcare to public facilities appear to be penalized. Charging them for treatment and drugs at different and higher rates compared to those who entered the public system from the beginning of diagnosis, needs to stop. There should be a common and standardised fee structure for all public hospitals, including those under the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Higher Education. We need to also seriously tackle escalating private healthcare costs through better regulation and transparency of the private health sector and adopting innovations such as the proposed Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme.”
“The policy brief highlights patient-centric opportunities for us, as an upper middle income country, to improve its response to cancer.” Azrul concluded.
The Policy Brief can be downloaded here.
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