Covid-19 patients to ‘foot the bill’ at private hospitals

Insurance companies do not reimburse for treatment related to the virus

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

COVID-19 patients in private hospitals will have to pay their own bills as insurance companies do not reimburse payment for the treatment.

“Cost-wise, insurance companies up till today do not reimburse Covid-19 treatment, so patients in private hospitals will have to foot their own bills.

“So, that’s the agreement from the government actually. They told us to take the patient but the patient will have to pay,” Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said in a press conference yesterday.

“We have a group of patients who want to pay for treatment in a private hospital, but we are limited in capacity and capability,” he added.

Commenting on the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for private hospitals involved in accommodating Covid-19 patients, Dr Kuljit said so far the hospitals are following exactly the SOPs and guidelines set by the Health Ministry.

He said the methodology in private hospitals is similar to what government hospitals provide in terms of treatment, steps and protocol.

Meanwhile, medical associations have suggested for the government to understand the entire ecosystem and supply chain of private healthcare before deciding to introduce price control mechanisms for medicines.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) honorary secretary general Dr Thirunavukarasu Rajoo said there is no necessity to change a system that has been working well for the private sector.

He stressed that private healthcare is a one-stop centre not only for Malaysian but it is always being compared to the highly subsidised public sector.

“When you want to control a certain thing, you must understand the entire supply chain. Our concern is it may disrupt the quality of care. It’s good that the government is engaging, but we would like to advise them to study more.

“Come to the ground, talk to the patients — that’s how you can truly understand the entire ecosystem in hospital and clinic works,” he said in a panel discussion titled “Partnering with the government of Malaysia on building a more resilient healthcare sector” yesterday.

Echoing the same sentiment, Pharmaceutical Association of Malaysia VP Ashish Pal said price controls cannot accomplish what is intended to be accomplished without comprehensive understanding.

“If controls are forced and there is a compromise in the values of healthcare delivered for Malaysians and medical tourists, once the borders reopen, I am not sure this would be in the best interest for the healthcare ecosystem.

“We need to understand that the healthcare system across the country is different. But Malaysia’s healthcare system is very strong and it has evolved over these years for multiple reasons,” he added.

The cost of medicine in Malaysia is about 14% of total healthcare cost. Nevertheless, Ashish pointed out the relevance of public-private partnership becomes even more critical during this pandemic period.

“We all in this together, to make sure Malaysia is in a positive direction heading towards economic recovery. What we need is policy sustainability and level of trust,” he said.

On the National Covid-19 Immunisation Plan, MMA believes it can get a lot of general practitioners (GP) to participate as part of a corporate social responsibility in the first phase.

As the second and third phase involves a large number, Dr Thirunavukarasu said the government probably can engage with the GPs that have 8,000 clinics nationwide.

“In terms of having a serious discussion, not yet. But there is already an informal discussion ongoing. Now another party is taking care of the vaccine part, we are waiting for a clearer picture,” he said.

Similarly, Dr Kuljit said the association is waiting to discuss the mechanism of vaccination as many would opt to be vaccinated in private hospitals.

“It’s a service we can provide for the public. We are ready, however, we are waiting for further instructions,” he said.


Read our previous report here

Private hospitals apply extra precautions for Covid-19 treatment