Healthcare inflation rate set to go up


SHOCK over consultation fees news” – I’m not surprised by this headline in The Star used for the report on the government’s announcement that it will allow private medical practitioners to set their own fees (Dec 8; online at bit.ly/star_shock).

The announcement will likely result in higher medical bills and will add to the problem of Malaysia’s rising medical inflation. Medical insurance experts have pointed out that a (2017) survey of 11 Asian countries on healthcare matters saw Malaysia with the third-highest healthcare inflation rate at 12.7, after India’s at 14% and Indonesia’s at 13.1%.

Experts have long argued that Malaysia’s high medical inflation rate in comparison with developed nations’ rates is a result of not enough proper governance and guidelines. They point to the fact that the Health Ministry in developed nations are “more stringent in terms of managing charge rates”.

Hence, in our context we need better, not less, regulation of medical fees in the country’s private healthcare sector. The lack of specialists, particularly, has lead to higher costs for their services, which, in some cases, are almost a monopoly. Hence, all the more important to cap these specialists costs.

Note that our medical costs inflation is significantly ahead of our consumer price index of well under 5%. In short, the government needs to address the key issue of rising medical inflation in Malaysia. Arguably, unregulated or deregulation of private medical fees is far from the ideal solution and more likely to push medical fees inflation higher.

Our medical claims and costs are rising due to demand for better healthcare, the ageing population, and the increasing problems with chronic and lifestyle illnesses.

Hence, all the more so that private medical fees need some form of regulation, or capping at least, so lower to middle income earners can afford to access private medical services.

SZE LOONG STEVE NGEOW

Kajang, Selangor

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