KUALA LUMPUR, June 2 ― Over a third of Malaysians are directly paying for medical services despite universal health care here, an excessive figure that can lead to financial catastrophe, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said today.
He said Malaysians' out-of-pocket payments were approximately 35 per cent of the country's overall health expenditure totalling between RM44 billion to RM45 billion annually.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank think it's too high and that it can lead to financial catastrophe,” Subramaniam told a press conference here after opening the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia's 24th international healthcare conference.
“We're advised to reduce it to less than 15 or 20 per cent,” he added.
The health minister said Malaysia has high out-of-pocket health payments due to the small number of people who have health insurance or medical benefits at work.
“Private healthcare insurance is not ideal. They have selective criteria, coverage issues, age issues,” Subramaniam added.
He said Malaysians forking out their own money for healthcare also meant that they will not seek treatment if they are unable to pay for it.
“We'll have to work with the private sector because they have capacity. The public sector is over-utilised in most areas,” the minister said.
Malaysians have access to universal healthcare via the government's network of public hospitals and clinics, but many opt for private healthcare providers due to the overcrowding the minister highlighted.