PETALING JAYA: Medical fees for non-citizens will increase by 70% when the Government stops subsidising them beginning Jan 1, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
The charges, he said, would reflect the real cost of treatment that the Government had to bear and would cover all treatments.
On Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced in his Budget 2016 speech that the Government would impose full medical charges on non-citizens beginning next year.
Speaking to The Star, Dr Subramaniam said the fees for outpatient treatment, including medicine, for instance, would be increased from RM23.50 to RM40 while the fees for specialist treatment would go up to RM132.60 from RM78.
He said the ministry only wanted to cover its costs and the fees to be charged would reflect that. He also said that the increase should not be an issue for legal foreign workers as they were covered by insurance.
The ministry had initially planned to increase the charges up to the full cost in three stages in three years but decided to do it in two years instead, he said.
On whether the fees collected would help increase the fund that the ministry needed for its expenditure, Dr Subramaniam said it would help a little.
With 2.1 million legal foreign workers, that would give the ministry an extra RM40mil to RM50mil a year, he said.
Undocumented workers who sought treatment from government health facilities, too, would be charged, he said.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said that the insurance for foreign workers only covered hospitalisation and not outpatient treatment and this would increase the cost to employers.
Although the workers were supposed to pay for their own outpatient treatment, most employers picked up the tab, he said.
With the hike, he also expressed concern that the cost of hospitalisation would also increase, thus jacking up the insurance premiums, which in many cases were borne by employers.
“If the Government wants to get more revenue, it should charge the fees on foreign citizens who are not legally employed because those employed had already paid a levy,” he said.
The Immigration Department collect a levy of RM850 to RM2,000 for each foreign worker and this should be channelled to the Health Ministry to cover their healthcare, he said.
He said with high medical costs, the workers might not want to seek treatment and this might have some consequences.
On another issue, Dr Subramaniam said the ministry would pool its resources in view of the slight shortfall in health budget allocation for next year.
The health budget allocated in Budget 2016 was RM23.031bil or 8.6% of the total budget, RM269mil less than this year’s allocation.
He said the ministry would reduce funding in other areas and give priority to preventive and primary care.
Dr Subramaniam also expressed happiness that more medicine have now been categorised as zero-rated in the Goods and Services Tax list.