‘Tax-based healthcare system is best’


KUALA LUMPUR: The current healthcare services supported by general taxes should be maintained instead of introducing a whole new national health financing scheme, says a think-tank.

In a meeting with the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) on Monday, Citizens’ Health Initiative (CHI) proposed that the government maintained the tax-revenue financing system with better incentives for healthcare providers to stay in public service.

“This is to reduce escalation of healthcare costs associated with health insurance system, while ensuring sustainable financing over the long term.

“Voluntary health insurance, even if supposedly leading to a social health insurance scheme, will be a retrogressive step as Malaysia has an excellent, long-established tax-based financing public healthcare system,” it said in a statement.

CHI is an informal grouping of individuals seeking to promote citizen involvement in healthcare reforms and health policy.

In a tax-revenue financing system, healthcare is supported by general revenues that the government collects and comes from Treasury funds, while social health insurance is mandatory contributions from employers, employees, the self-employed as well as the government.

CHI said healthcare system reforms should focus primarily on improving healthcare while ensuring greater cost effectiveness and equity. Its proposals emphasised that healthcare reforms in Malaysia should retain the government’s provider and financing roles.

It said that in the meeting with CEP, it also highlighted the principle of universal health coverage that ensures equitable access to quality healthcare, which is not dependent on the people’s ability to pay nor is restricted by geographical location.

It urged the government to strengthen prevention, primary care and public hospitals to ensure universal health coverage.

The CHI statement was signed by the Malaysian Medical Association past president Dr Mary Cardosa, public health specialist Dr Chan Chee Khoon and Penang Island City Council councilor Dr Chee Heng Leng.

The other two who signed were pharmacologist and medical practitioner Dr Yap Tuan Gee and healthcare financing consultant Chang Yii Tan. Recently the Deputy Health Minister told the media that Malaysia would need to introduce a social health insurance sooner or later to ensure that all were covered for healthcare.

Dr Lee Boon Chye said that it would be less than 5% of contributor’s salary and the rate would be lower for the lower income group.

However, the government will work out free insurance coverage for the B40 (lowest 40% income group), which hopefully will roll out by Budget 2019 announcement before a social health insurance is introduced.

He said the ministry would discuss with stakeholders on this.

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