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Health policy should be inclusive, not lopsided

  • The government's medical care policy must be inclusive, allowing all segments of the society to benefit from it.

Sin Chew Daily

During a recent ministry of health dialogue on the charges collected by private practitioners, it was agreed that private clinic charges will be revised upward from RM10-35 to RM35-125 depending on the complexity of the patients' conditions.

From what we know, the last time consultation charges were increased was in 2006.

This proposal will be submitted to the health minister for discussion in the cabinet meeting.

The first public reaction is that you'd better don't get sick if you cannot afford the charges.

Allowing consultation charges to go up is contrary to the government's pledge to relieve the financial burden of the rakyat. The public may delay treatment and risk having their medical conditions worsened just because of the excessive medical fees.

The Malaysian Employers' Federation (MEF) is of the opinion that employers will have to bear additional burden for their employees' medical welfare following the increase of consultation fees.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) argues that the margin of increase achieved through consensus from relevant parties at the dialogue has been reasonable.

It has been reported that many private practitioners maintaining their own clinics have problems settling staff salaries and rents with the current charges in view of the escalating medical cost.

Organized by the health ministry, the dialogue brought together interested parties such as doctors, NGOs and consumer organizations to ensure reasonable and fair charge review. As such, the ministry should also take into account the views and proposals from all parties, including requiring private clinics to provide detailed fee breakdown for the benefit of patients and their families.

Currently private clinic medical bills only provide a total sum without detailed breakdown of the charges such as consultation fees and prices of medicines. Consumers have the right to know the details in order to evaluate the fairness of the charges.

It is understood that the representative from health ministry's pharmaceutical services division pointed out during the dialogue that the government would regulate the prices of medicines to protect the right of consumers.

Consumers and patients can choose to purchase the medicines from the clinics (hospitals) or outside pharmacies, meaning medical practitioners will only concentrate on providing consultation services while the patients can decide where to acquire the medicines.

This will help keep clinic charges at reasonable levels while prices of medicines are determined by market forces to ensure competitiveness.

It is hoped that while allowing medical practitioners to increase their charges, the government will also implement the medical coverage plan for B40 group as soon as possible, and effectively and systematically implement the national health insurance scheme.

In short, the government's medical care policy must be inclusive, allowing all segments of the society to benefit from it instead of benefiting only certain privileged quarters.

 

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