Ministry: RM50.5 million unpaid medical bills by foreigners

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PETALING JAYA: The health ministry has revealed that foreigners owed RM50.5 million in unpaid medical bills at all government hospitals and clinics last year, The Star reported.

Statistics from the ministry showed that the foreigners were from 38 different countries, but the bulk of the unpaid bills were those from Indonesia, followed by Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

“There were 1.36 million foreign patients who sought treatment at government hospitals last year alone.

“The total cost of treatment for this 1.36 million patients was RM269.89 million, and 23,595 of them still owe RM50.5 million,” health ministry secretary-general Chen Chaw Min told the daily.

He added that some patients were from developed countries such as Germany, Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Japan and the United States, but the amount owed was negligible.

“Most foreigners fail to pay because they do not have enough funds, while some simply refuse to pay.

“They mostly comprise undocumented workers who do not have medical insurance, which is compulsory for all legal foreign workers,” Chen was quoted as saying.

The largest single foreign patient debt was naturally incurred at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL), being the biggest hospital in the country.

Chen said over the past five years, HKL’s unpaid medical bills amounted to RM7.87 million, with about 40% of that (RM3 million), incurred last year alone.

“We try our best to collect and we also send a letter to the respective embassies to get the debts settled.

“But only 5% to 10% of the unpaid medical bills are collected,” The Star quoted Chen as saying.

The health ministry has already placed counter-measures to ensure that the situation does not get any worse, saying that foreigners will now have to pay a much higher deposit when seeking treatment at government hospitals and clinics.

It was previously reported that foreign residents now have to fork out 130% to 230% more in deposits for wards and surgery in a move to reduce the medical subsidy for non-citizens.

“The ministry is concerned about the outstanding bills as these will affect the delivery of health services.

“Therefore, the need to raise the deposit rate for foreigners is in tandem with the increase in charges in 2016,” Chen said, according to The Star.

Meanwhile, the daily also reported the Nepalese embassy as saying that they will try and help the health ministry recoup some of the money owed by its citizens.

“We will first check the patient’s status to determine if he or she is in Malaysia legally. If they are here legally and gainfully employed, then their company or insurance should pay for their medical expenses.

“Of course, insurance only covers a certain amount, so if the total bill exceeds the amount payable by insurance, we will write to the hospital to request a waiver of the outstanding sum,” the embassy’s second secretary Prem Raj Gautam told The Star.

He added that if a patient was found to be an illegal immigrant, then the embassy would try to contact the next of kin back in Nepal to request for the funds.

“The patient would likely be deported to Nepal after being discharged from the hospital,” Prem Raj was quoted as saying.

“It has to be said, however, that the embassy has never paid – nor will it pay – the bills.”