mySalam plugs protection gap but lacks clarity — Galen Centre

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KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 25): The Finance Ministry's newly-launched mySalam B40 national protection scheme will help plug the protection gap to ensure a higher proportion of the population is financially insured against the event of a health need or serious medical condition such as cancer, Galen Centre chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said.

In a media statement today, Azrul said the scheme is a critical step in the right direction towards eventually introducing a national social health insurance scheme for all.

"Currently, only 60% of Malaysians have some form of insurance. As a result, out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure is at a high 39% which strains household finances and causes severe financial hardship. B40 and a significant proportion of M40 households are particularly vulnerable to health-related financial catastrophe," said Azrul.

According to Galen's statement, there are a number of concerns related to mySalam for the government to address in order to provide assurance to those signing up for the insurance scheme.

"These include how is the scheme going to be sustained beyond the initial RM2 billion from Great Eastern and after the initial five-year period? Will patients be able to access both private and public healthcare facilities for treatment under this scheme? If this is an insurance scheme, reimbursement will be to private hospitals for treatment costs, rather than public hospitals. Shouldn't the RM2 billion instead be channelled into strengthening the public health system?

"How is the govt going to avoid charging first class rates to B40 patients under this scheme when they eventually get referred back to the public healthcare facilities? Current law requires that referral patients from private sector be charged first class rates. Is the law going to be amended to prevent this from happening to patients?" Galen said.

Azrul said a national initiative of such magnitude and importance would usually have a rigorous and extensive consultation process prior to being implemented, particularly with stakeholders who are most affected and relevant. Arguably, this was not the case, he said.

"There was a lack of clarity regarding what was intended, how it is being financed, who is involved and most importantly, what problem is being addressed and the support being provided through this scheme. Stakeholders were anxious and forced to speculate, resulting in distrust, misunderstanding and opposition to what is a good intention.

"We need to move away from the mind-set that government knows best and that only minimum consultation is necessary. Better and more effective policies which work for people can be made with rigorous consultation and discussion," he said.