THERE is no doubt that the cost of private healthcare in Malaysia is exorbitant and only those in the high-income bracket have access to such services.
The private medical sector operates as a business, and profitability is their main concern, above that of providing affordable healthcare to the people.
Furthermore, things are more complicated in Malaysia, as not many people can afford to pay health insurance premiums, which, to a certain extent, cover private hospitalisation and treatment costs.
Currently, no health insurance companies provide coverage for outpatient treatment at private medical centres or practitioners in the country.
One must understand that the cost of private healthcare in this country is not because of professional charges by doctors, but mainly because of the increase in administrative costs.
In my experience seeking treatment at private healthcare facilities, the physician’s professional fees are quite reasonable for the most part, but the unnecessary charges for medications for instance, is not justified.
Imagine a medication retailing at RM3 per tablet is hiked up to RM15; these are some of the unjustified charges and are the main drivers for exorbitant private healthcare costs.
There is no point in pointing fingers on who should be blamed as the system is such that private healthcare in the country only caters to those who can pay for it.
For patients who cannot afford it, government hospitals will be the only choice for those seeking treatment, although sometimes, things are not so rosy, especially with the long waiting time and overcrowded wards.
I feel that there is a lack of commitment from interested parties to solve this problem, and it will prevail if the social context of providing equitable access to good healthcare is not made a priority.
Dr Mohamed Azmi Ahmad Hassali, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang
2nd Aug 2012
The New Straits Times