MMA: Have healthcare insurance plan before using private hospital facilities

The health ministry is considering signing a deal to use private hospital specialists and facilities. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has called on Putrajaya to draw up a comprehensive social healthcare insurance scheme for all Malaysians before signing a deal to use private hospital specialists and facilities.

Its president Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim said the move would allow both parties to look at an agreeable fee to charge for the facilities. “It has to be negotiated,” he told FMT.

But for the negotiation to take place, he said, the ministry must come up with a related healthcare policy and a sustainable financing solution.

Namazie explained that the government had previously rented facilities from private hospitals but the scheme had been cut short as the government ran out of funds.

Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim.

“While we welcome the initiative by the PH government to ease the burden faced in government hospitals, it should not be on an ad hoc basis,” he said.

Therefore, he hoped the PH government would draw up a comprehensive healthcare plan and add in the cost factors to turn it into a long term initiative.

“There has to be a different kind of financing for the government and the private sector to work together,” he said adding that this would be looked into in a comprehensive healthcare insurance scheme to cover all Malaysians.

Yesterday, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said his ministry had started collaborating with private hospitals to address the issue of getting enough expertise to treat chronic diseases. He had added that some private hospitals had approached them a month ago and shown willingness to work together with the government on resolving the shortage of medical experts in certain areas in government hospitals.

The health ministry has set up a health advisory council to work out the details.

Namazie, who represents the largest and oldest medical profession association in the country, said once the social healthcare insurance scheme was drawn, Putrajaya could call for open tenders if it was keen in using private hospital specialists and facilities. Both parties could then come to an agreement on the pricing of the services, he added.

“In this era of transparency, the health ministry can call for tenders. But it must be kept in mind that private hospitals have certain minimum costs,” said Namazie.

He added private hospitals were keen as it could benefit them in terms of increased patient referrals and use of their facilities by the government.

The government recently launched the Finance Ministry’s mySalam health insurance scheme for the Bottom 40th percentile (B40) of income earners ― to which insurance company Great Eastern Takaful Berhad is contributing a whopping RM2 billion. However, doctor and patient groups have raised concerns about a government-run health insurance scheme for the poor, stating it lacks details and has insufficient benefits.

Former MMA president Dr Milton Lum was quoted in the media as saying the government must have mechanisms in place to prevent corruption.

He had asked if a middleman would be involved in the mySalam scheme and if the health ministry would procure drugs via open tender or negotiations, pointing out that the use of middlemen and obsolete contracts had caused the ministry to purchase drugs at a higher price than other countries.