PUTRAJAYA: Private medical fees are up, but there is confusion over the exact percentage of the rise.
While the Health Minister said the increase has been capped at 14.4%, – less than half the amount the Malaysian Medical Association had requested – the medical schedule showed hikes of a more than 200% on certain fee ceilings.
Consultation fees, for instance, increased from a range of RM10-RM35 to a new range of RM30-RM125.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, however, said the fees were the maximum amount that doctors were allowed to charge and they were free to charge less.
“Those (in the fee schedule) are the maximum rates. We are protecting the people from being charged exorbitantly by the private sector,” he said here yesterday.
Dr Subramaniam said the ministry had rejected the Malaysian Medical Association’s request for a 30% increase.
He added that the 14.4% increase was reasonable given that the inflation rate was around 23%.
On Monday, an online news portal highlighted that an amendment to the 13th Schedule of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 had been implemented in a hush manner.
The Private Hospitals and Other Private Healthcare Facilities Regulations 2006 of the Act, which was published in the federal gazette on Dec 16 last year, provides for the maximum chargeable fees for registered medical and dental practitioners practising in private hospitals in terms of their professional fees such as consultation and performance of procedures.
These fees were based on Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) Schedule of Fees 4th Edition 2002.
Dr Subramaniam also said that the previous minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai did keep the public informed of the increase in July 2012 and the fee schedule was brought to the Cabinet and approved on October 12 the same year after consulting various stakeholders.
The Ministry directed to review the fee schedule in Sept 2010.
He was asked why the new fee schedule was not made public when it was concluded or gazetted.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah explained that the 14.4% increase was the average fees for surgical and dental procedures.
He said the doctors’ consultation charges that was increased from a range of RM10-RM35 to a new range of RM30-RM125 took into account of the rental costs in different locations.
Dr Subramaniam said the market forces were expected to determine the fees.
“The people are encouraged to be prudent and discerning and seek treatment at private facilities charging reasonable rates,” he said.
The other components of the hospital charges such as fees for accommodation, laboratory investigations, nursing care, use of equipment, operation room and drugs used were not regulated due to the varying costs in operating and maintaining a private hospital in different areas, he said.
The new medical fees schedule is the first revision since it was regulated in 2006. The fees had been recommended by the MMA since 2002, he said.