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KUALA LUMPUR: Health spending per capita in Malaysia has increased two and half times in 17 years, from RM641 in 1997 to RM1,626 in 2014, reveals Health Minister Dr S Subramaniam.
In his keynote address at a health forum here, Subramaniam said healthcare spending had outpaced economic growth, especially due to the rise in non-communicable diseases, an ageing population and technological advances, raising concerns of sustainability.
He said the total healthcare expenditure in Malaysia stood at RM52 billion, with the public health sector accounting for 52% and the private health sector 48% of the amount.
“The amount of money given to the public sector is insufficient but 10% of the annual budget is given to the health ministry, second only to the education ministry,” he said, adding that the challenge was to optimise spending.
Subramaniam also voiced concern that 39% of private medical healthcare expenditure was “out of pocket” spending.
“Many people who opt for that run the risk of running into financial difficulty.
“As politicians, we see it every day – letters on the table from people who landed in private hospitals with bills of over RM60,000 but who are unable to pay.
“So ‘out of pocket’ expenditure is not the best solution.”
He said this was why the government was considering a voluntary health insurance scheme that would hopefully be better than private schemes to ease the pressure the public health sector placed on the private health sector.
“We have a very resilient private sector which responds to demand and if we create demand, we are confident the private sector will respond by investing in and creating infrastructure and facilities.”
Another challenge facing the healthcare system, said Subramaniam, was Malaysia’s ageing population as people were living 10 years longer than they did 40 years ago.
He said elderly people needed more medical care and many lacked sufficient savings for their retirement.
“Hospital admission for the elderly is 157 per 1,000 compared with 86 per 1,000 for the general population.
“This means the elderly are twice as likely to be admitted,” he said, adding that the elderly had multiple ailments and were also more likely to seek outpatient treatment and they had multiple ailments.
“So this is a big challenge to the government and healthcare system.
“The answer to this is to keep the elderly functional, healthy, and if possible, make them economically active,” he said, citing Singapore, which had a quota for the hiring of employees over the age of 60, as an example.
He said the employer could pay a certain amount that was supplemented by the government.
Subramaniam said the Malaysian government had considered a similar plan but it would first need to revamp its welfare programmes.
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