After numerous calls to previous health ministers to do a review of the low registration fees at government health care facilities, the current health minister has seen it fit to finally bring up the matter.
No doubt, it will take some time for the new fee structure to materialise, due to it being included in the health white paper, which is slated to be presented at the end of this year, and not as a separate review.
We have, on numerous occasions years ago, highlighted the need for an increase in the fees, as the quantum is just too minuscule to make a noticeable impact on the Health Ministry’s coffers.
While fees at some of the other government departments have seen an increase over the years, registration fees for public health care have remained the same. Even the parking rates at many of our public health care facilities make the registration fees pale in comparison.
According to the health minister, the government’s collection from the RM1 and RM5 medical fees, as stipulated under the Fees (Medical) Order 1982 and Fees (Medical) (Amendment) Order 2017, accounted for only one per cent of the amount spent on public health care.
An increase is needed, which although likely to be minimal, will at least add on to the budget needed for healthcare spending. The added bonus will be the realization that there is value to the health care services being provided by the government, instead of being almost free, which many may equate to the services rendered of being low in value.
There should not be any opposition to this, as those who cannot afford the registration fees will not be turned away.
Ideally, a social health insurance scheme should be high on the agenda of the white paper on health. It is time to move away from the current heavily subsidized health care system, which is unsustainable.
This should involve the whole of society in as far as funding of the health care system is concerned, with an emphasis on ensuring that those from low-income groups can still avail themselves of heavily subsidized health care services.
Dr Koh Kar Chai is president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
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