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Introduce national health insurance to cover everyone’s medical care

We owe healthcare services to all our people – and such a scheme will surely be a priceless bequest to posterity

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Besides food security, the new Malaysian government should also look into the feasibility of introducing a national health insurance scheme to give the people full medical coverage for all their medical needs.

Currently, only affluent Malaysians can afford private medical insurance policies to ensure that all their family members have access to the best medical treatment available. Despite rising costs, many people still insure themselves and their entire families as a safety measure.

With private medical insurance policies, we can guarantee the insured have access to prompt medical treatment. Most people are concerned about heavy medical bills, especially if the illness requires prolonged hospitalisation, surgery and follow-up treatment.

Regrettably, such private medical insurance is beyond the reach of many and, so, many are denied access to prompt quality medical treatment. Ordinary people simply cannot afford private insurance.

Sometimes even private medical insurance will not cover an insured person to the full cost of hospitalisation, surgery and follow-up treatment.

A friend of mine recently underwent a heart bypass operation. He said the bill came up to nearly RM90,000 but his insurance coverage only allowed a maximum of RM70,000. So, he had to stump out RM20,000 from his own pocket – a substantial sum for a retiree.

It is against this backdrop that the new government should explore the possibility of converting the Social Security Organisation (Socso) into a national health insurance scheme. This will ensure that everyone will have access to the same medical treatment.

Employees in the public and private sectors will probably not mind paying a reasonable amount every month from their monthly wages to support such a scheme. Everyone knows the benefits of such a scheme, and it covers a person from cradle to grave.

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With such a scheme, employees enjoy huge lifetime benefits. What better protection can a country give its people than national health insurance to cover medical emergencies?

The scheme should also cover medical treatment for the employees’ entire family at private medical clinics and medical centres. Only then will employees cease to have any more anxiety and even nightmares over medical bills.

The scheme should be extended to cover guest workers from other countries. We should never forget them as we are morally obligated to ensure that they too receive the best medical treatment available. In fact, once they have received a valid work permit, they must also enjoy public and private healthcare services like the rest of us

After all, they are contributing significantly to the economic development and prosperity of Malaysia. Without them, many economic sectors in our country will be paralysed.

Under such a national health insurance scheme, people will have the choice of going to a public or private hospital or a clinic of their choice. This will also relieve the burden faced by public hospitals and clinics, which are now stretched to the limit by patients.

If the national insurance scheme extends the same medical protection to all our people, Malaysia will be recognised as a country guided by a moral compass. It will paint a picture of Malaysia as a country that has got its priorities right.

When we make headway in this direction, we will slowly move towards becoming an egalitarian society like Sweden.

If a national health insurance scheme is introduced, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will leave behind a priceless and lasting legacy. If we implement such a scheme, Malaysia will give moral leadership to many countries around the world.

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All we need is the green light from the government for our planners to come up with a national health insurance scheme. We have sufficient talented people in the country to put forward ideas and proposals for the planning and execution of a workable national health insurance scheme.

Such a scheme will surely receive bipartisan support. Both sides of the political divide can work together to come up with a feasible scheme. They can get feedback from NGOs, industry organisations, the Malaysian Employers Federation and the Malaysian Trades Union Congress.

How do we finance such a national health insurance scheme? Financing such a scheme should not be an enormous problem.

Besides the employer-employee contributions, we will have sufficient financial resources available if we slash corruption, mismanagement and other forms of wastage. Enough financial resources will be available if we plug all these loopholes.

Malaysia can offer the best fully covered medical benefits available to all its people. It is not a far-fetched dream but one which I hope can be realised in my lifetime.

We owe this basic service in life to all our people. It will surely be a priceless bequest to posterity – a legacy cherished by future generations, who will know that we, the people of today, cared for their wellbeing.

No one should ever be denied the best medical treatment, regardless of his or her station in life or social standing.

Quality medical treatment should always be a basic right for everyone and not the prerogative of a privileged minority.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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Paul Lim
Paul Lim
8 Jan 2023 3.56am

Yes, Malaysia needs this. Sweden today is no more a model to look at. The closes model in S.E. Asia is probably Thailand while Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are places to learn from. The UK is certainly not the place to learn from.

Phua Kai Lit
Phua Kai Lit
3 Jan 2023 8.56am

NHI schemes need cost-containment measures and mechanisms to be built in, to avoid problem of rising health care costs later on. We can learn from the experience of Canada, Taiwan with NHI.

Manicka
Manicka
2 Jan 2023 6.17am

Kudos!

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