Govt urged to regulate prices for medical supplies

Insurance groups say price transparency is important as it allows consumers to make informed choices


THE government should set benchmark prices for drugs and pharmaceutical supplies following its announcement to deregulate consultation fees of doctors in private clinics and hospitals, insurance associations say.

Life Insurance Association Malaysia (LIAM), Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (PIAM) and Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA) said in a joint statement yesterday that these items are essential to patients and it should be made affordable for them.

They also said price transparency is important as it allows consumers to make informed choices.

“We welcome the ministry’s move to mandate the disclosures of consultation fee up front and we believe that this should be extended to charges of common medical procedures in all private hospitals. This would help the public make informed decisions on the cost of treatment.

“In this regard, private hospitals in Malaysia should publish their actual average costs similar to what is currently practised in some countries,” the statement read.

Last week, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad announced the Cabinet’s decision to deregulate the fee structures at private healthcares. He said the move would improve consumers’ ability to choose their doctors.

According to Dr Dzulkefly, the Cabinet had assessed the matter thoroughly and took into consideration the recommendations from the National Cost of Living Council.

Subsequently, on Monday, he said the ministry will engage with all stakeholders and gather their feedback over the move after various parties expressed concerns over possible hike in costs due to deregulation.

The current doctor’s charges for inpatient stays for non-surgical and surgical treatments are about 20% and 35% respectively.

The insurance associations further said that transparency in medical charges will encourage competition and help control prices in the long term.

The joint statement also cited Willis Towers Watson’s “2019 Global Medical Trends Survey Report” which revealed that Malaysia is among the highest in the region in terms of medical cost with 13.1% expected increase.

“If healthcare costs are not contained, increase in premiums for medical and health insurance will be inevitable.

“If medical insurance is no longer affordable, it will drive more patients to seek treatment at government hospitals. For self-paying patients, it will cost them more to seek treatment at private clinics and hospitals,” it added.