Healthcare should be more than just for B40

Malaysia’s healthcare system should focus and invest on preventive healthcare, where people are able to prevent diseases and conditions before they occur

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE 6.6% increase in allocation for healthcare to RM30.6 billion from last year’s RM28.7 billion as outlined in Budget 2020 is a testament to the government’s commitment in the expansion and investment for health services nationwide.

Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib, however, said most of the initiatives announced were curative or are meant to deal with existing problems.

“We need to move Malaysia’s healthcare system to one which focuses and invests on preventive healthcare, where people are able to prevent diseases and conditions before they occur, and we need to have already started,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

The breakdown of the allocation also include RM1.6 billion for construction of new hospitals, as well as upgrading and expansion of existing ones and RM319 million for construction and upgrade of health and dental clinics.

A total of RM227 million is allocated to upgrade medical equipment, while RM95 million for renovation of medical infrastructure and facilities. RM59 million will be provided in collaboration with non-government organisation medical ambulance services to acquire more ambulances.

The government also allocated RM31 million for upgrading and maintenance of ICT services, which involves a pilot project for hospital electronic medical records and RM5 million to provide mobile clinics in rural areas, especially for the Orang Asli.

As for the amendments to the “mySalam” scheme, he said that it will also make a difference to the society at large.

From Jan 1 next year, the coverage of social protection scheme “MySalam” will be extended to cover 45 illnesses from the existing three — those aged 65 years old compared to the current 55 years old and those with gross annual income up to RM100,000.

“The expansion from 36 to 45 critical illnesses and increasing coverage up to the age of 65 years of age, will be a welcome relief for many patients whose families have applied, failed and been left out of the scheme, despite needing the assistance.

“The extension of coverage to include those making up to RM100,000 a year, is also welcomed as it includes the lower middle 40% income group (M40) category of the population who felt marginalised by “mySalam”, despite equally needing financial support to deal with such illnesses.

“There should be investment to develop a framework which is able to be fair, covers the entire population and not just parts of it, and most importantly is able to finance sustaining and growing a healthcare system — which provides high quality, accessible and affordable services.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N Ganabaskaran said in a statement that the budget is a well-balanced budget. He said the 6.6% increase from last year’s allocation was fair, taking into consideration the country’s current economic position.

“The focus on ICT and digitalisation is exciting and welcomed. The RM31 million allocated to upgrade and maintain ICT services, among others, to implement a pilot project for the hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR) system is a much needed measure.

Another interesting element in the budget is the fertility incentive, which allows the withdrawal of a certain amount from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to be used for fertility treatment such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedure.

The income tax relief up to RM6,000 which is given on expenses incurred for medical treatment, will be expanded to include expenses on fertility treatment.

The final initiative announced for healthcare is the private retirement schemes (PRS) where it offers a complementary channel for everyone to save, especially for those who are not subjected to any mandatory retirement saving schemes.

It added that the positive stance is based on two factors, which are strong demand for quality healthcare resulting from health awareness and increase in social protection scheme for the B40.

“In 2018, Malaysian total healthcare expenditure was RM28.7 billion or about 2% of GDP. With the increase allocation for Health Ministry in Budget 2020, the percentage ratio of healthcare expenditure to GDP will be similar.

“This could translate into higher procurement of drugs, which historically account for about 17% of total healthcare spending, and consumables as well as medical equipment from the government.