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Value-added tax to finance health care?

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Civil society groups are disappointed that they have not been invited for consultations over the proposed national health financing scheme, says the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation.

The Gabungan Membantah Penswastaan Perkhidmatan Kesihatan (GMPPK) or the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation is very concerned about the ongoing attempts to revamp the financing mechanism for health care in Malaysia.

We have heard from reliable sources that the ideas that are being discussed by the Health Ministry, the Economic Planning Unit and the consultants include

•    Corporatisation of all government hospitals;
•    Institution of fees for all medical services;
•    Institution of a new value added tax to finance health care;
•    Setting up a system in which there will be penalties for the primary care doctor or the GP if he or she allows too much access to specialist care;
•    Private insurance to cover certain illnesses;
•    Further measures that will lead to the increased weakening of public hospitals.

We are disappointed that up till now the government has not forwarded us, the GMPPK, which represents 81 NGOs and groups, a copy of the Interim Report (that came out in September 2006) or yet invited us for a dialogue session with the consultant. Consumer bodies such as FOMCA and CAP have also not been invited by the government to give feedback to the changes that are being discussed. But we understand that the Private Hospitals Association, the medical insurance companies and the Malaysian Medical Association are all part of the steering committee of the ongoing study into health care financing.

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While the study is going on, the Health Ministry is introducing piecemeal changes to the system such as allowing private specialist clinics in government hospitals after office hours, which makes a mockery of the government’s stated aim of providing accessible and equitable health care for all Malaysians.

Our letters to the Health Ministry, the Health Minister as well as to the Prime Minister on these issues have elicited no replies thus far. It is for these reasons that we have decided to take this matter to the Malaysian public. They will be the ones who will suffer if the costs of health care go up further. Pamphlets are being distributed in 18 hospitals throughout the country today(18 January 2007). We will continue the campaign to warn the Malaysian public of the impending changes in the health care system in Malaysia until the government opens up the consultation process to involve the Malaysian public and the groups represented in the GMPPK.

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