A sick M’sia: Keeping healthcare affordable

Phar Kim Beng

Modified 26 Jul 2018, 3:44 am

COMMENT | Malaysia is sick. If not financially, due to the gargantuan national debt, then collectively, as a nation that is most vulnerable to lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, stress and heart-related problems. But what makes Malaysia sicker is the healthcare system.

The private sector can provide good medical services but often at a bomb. Prices are high, and out of reach of perhaps as many as 92 percent of the people in the country. Statistics show that up to 92 percent of the people are earning less than RM6,000 a month.

Since a partial withdrawal of EPF in one's second account does not happen until one reaches 50, many Malaysians are exposed to the risk of not having enough money to get the best medical healthcare for themselves and their loved ones.

Of course, private insurance can kick in to save the day. But when basic salaries are low, and family sizes are big, there is no telling if each parent or each child can benefit from extensive – and expensive – personal insurance coverage.

The whole healthcare system in Malaysia is broken, too. How is this the case when an e-tender system was introduced as early as 2003 to do away with corruption and collusion? When it was first conceptualised and introduced, the e-tender system in the Ministry of Health would allow various pharmaceutical companies to offer the best terms and services to the relevant government agencies.

The goal of the e-tender was to prevent any manipulation by the middle person. When prices are below or beyond a certain threshold, the e-tender system would automatically eliminate the tenders that were neither serious nor capable of offering the appropriate medicine, medical hardware, etc. to the public hospitals.

In Seremban, there is an upstanding wholesaler and retailer of pharmaceutical products who has been in business for close to 27 years. Yet, the company often finds its tenders rejected by the e-procurement system in Seremban....

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