KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is targeting the end of the year to introduce a free medical coverage plan for those in the bottom 40 (B40) economic category.
Of the only 30 per cent of Malaysians with some form of medical health insurance, 15 per cent purchased their own medical plan, while between 10 and 15 per cent are covered by their employers.
“Sooner or later, we will have to implement some sort of social health insurance for all Malaysians, but we will start with the B40 group.
“If we are able to cover the bottom 40 per cent, a large proportion of the population will at least have some form of health coverage. Once that is done, we can look into universal coverage for all Malaysians.
“However, we have to work out the details about where the money is going to come from. One of the models proposed is very minimal coverage – for example, RM10,000, so the premiums are low enough to sustain.
“Eventually, we will have to discuss this matter with all stakeholders before we firm up a proposal,” said Deputy Minister of Health Dr Lee Boon Chye.
He said this at after opening the Excellence in Breast Cancer Therapy and Support Conference in Nexus Bangsar South here, today.
Also present at the three-day conference was Pink Ribbon Wellness (L) Foundation founder and chairman, Datuk Dr Devanand; and Beacon Hospital medical director and consultant clinical oncologist, Datuk Dr Mohamed Ibrahim Wahid.
The cost of medical treatment is Malaysia is becoming a burden thanks to inflation of between 10 and 15 per cent annually, which is due to the country’s ageing population, the availability of new treatments and technologies which are expensive, and higher expectations of the efficacy of medical treatment by the community.
“At the end of the day, the Health Ministry will have to look at the cost effectiveness of treatments and try our very best to bring down the price.
“We have successfully reduced the price of Hepatitis C therapy from RM128,000 to below RM1,500 by using generic drugs. We had a strong argument because it is a contagious disease, so we could use that argument to ‘arm-twist’ the multi-national drug companies.
“It’s more difficult with the treatment of cancer, but at the end of the day, if we are unable to reduce the cost, we will have to look at using more generic drugs as an alternative,” Dr Lee added.
The conference is highlighting alarming statistics, including that one in 19 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime; and that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women under the age of 40.