Will the proposed health insurance scheme be accessible and affordable?
“I would like to appeal to the Minister to make public the details of the insurance policy that the Ministry is thinking of introducing, so that interested parties and individuals can debate it and give feedback“
– Dr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj
In August 2018, the Malaysian government announced that it would unveil a national healthcare insurance scheme for B40 families with the Budget 2019 and planned to be rolled out in January 2019. This scheme is touted to be an improvement from the promise made in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto to extend nationwide the popular Peduli Sihat scheme by the Selangor state government.
The government has been tight-lipped on the details of the proposed national healthcare insurance scheme, but it has been reported that the proposed scheme will likely provide RM10,000 health insurance coverage annually to all B40 families for treatment at private healthcare centres. Recipients will also have the option of topping up to increase the coverage limit for their families.
While this is a good initiative by the government, the lack of consultation with healthcare stakeholders and the potential ramifications of the proposed scheme must be considered. The B40 in Malaysia consists of 3 million families. As such, the maximum potential expenditure for this scheme alone can come up to RM30 billion, which is more than the entire national health budget in 2018 at RM27 billion.
It is also unclear if the government plans on underwriting the scheme itself through a single payer system or if it will work in partnership with private insurance companies by paying them a premium to provide coverage to the recipients of the scheme. Besides the high cost, the impact on the healthcare industry, especially on public healthcare, is still unknown.
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Dr. Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj is a Malaysian politician who has served in the Parliament of Malaysia as Member of Parliament for the Sungai Siput constituency in Perak from 2008 to 2018. He is a medical doctor by profession.
Dr. Jeyakumar spent more than a decade in the public healthcare service and several years in the private sector. He was the recipient of the Malaysian Medical Association’s 1999 Award for Community Service. He is also tireless social advocate and activist.
Dr. Jeyakumar is a prominent member of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) but was elected to Parliament on the ticket of the People’s Justice Party (PKR) in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition coalition. His win in the 2008 general election unseated Samy Vellu; the long-serving President of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) which earned him the moniker “giantkiller. Jeyakumar successfully retained his seat in the 2013 general election but lost it in the 2018 elections.