Don’t implement VHI too hastily, say stakeholders

PETALING JAYA: Various stakeholders welcome the setting up of a Health Advisory Council by the ministry but want adequate consultations before the voluntary health insurance (VHI) is implemented.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia president Dr Steven Chow said besides the public and private sectors, council members should be drawn from national patient advocacy and consumer groups, the Academy of Medicine, medical and specialist bodies, healthcare economic specialists and primary care practitioner associations.

On VHI, Dr Chow said they have not been briefed on the details.

He said the federation, however, looks forward to the implementation of the Peduli Sihat healthcare scheme, which is practised in Selangor, in the country.

The scheme is one of Pakatan Harapan’s promises to achieve within 100 days.

“The Health Ministry should look at its performance in Selangor and improve where it is lacking,” said Dr Chow.

Under the scheme, RM500 assistance will be granted to the B40 class (Malaysian households earning RM3,900 a month or less) to provide them access to healthcare services at registered private medical institutions.

On Thursday, Health Minister Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the ministry would set up the council, implement Peduli Sihat and VHI within 100 days of Pakatan taking over the government.

Malaysian Medical Council (MMA) president Dr Ravindran R. Naidu said the proposed council should comprise non-partisan representatives from the public and private sectors as well as universities and consumer groups.

MMA, however, is not convinced that VHI is a good idea.

“Most worrying to us is how the financing will be managed but we are willing to hear more details,” he said.

National Cancer Society of Malaysia medical director Dr M. Murallitharan also expressed concern over the lack of details and delivery of VHI.

The system could be abused if hospitals maximise the use of the policy’s limited cash allocation and charge for unnecessary medicines, he said.

“The rollout is too fast. We need more information on VHI,” he said.

Former Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said it is important for the council to do a quick audit of the healthcare services because there have been complaints over long wait times, facilities and operating theatres that did not meet usual standards and inadequate medicines.

“Once they have identified the system’s weaknesses, they can put in funding to overcome them,” he said.

The Peduli Sihat scheme, he added, could reduce waiting time but private clinics had to be upgraded to be on par with the public clinics.

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