Does Malaysia need a Single Payer Healthcare System?

Malaysia has a 2-tier healthcare system – private and public
The private healthcare system is paid for by consumers “out of pocket” or by private health care insurance (personal or corporate/employers)
The public healthcare system is borne by the Government (i.e. tax payers) via mainly the Ministry of Health and to some extent the Ministry of Education (University Hospitals)

When times are bad, the MOH will see an influx of patients, mainly those previously paying “out of pocket”. The situation is worsened when during bad times, the MOH undertakes budget cuts. All sorts of methods can be used, e.g. trying to limit wastage by not performing “unnecessary” lab tests, but in actual fact there is little wiggle room for the MOH.

There has been a recent call by doctors for a “Single Payer System” and there are good arguments for such a system. In fact we have been blogging for years about a need for health insurance reform.
A single payer system would be in fact a “National Health Insurance Scheme”.

Doctors are proposing a countrywide health insurance system that would allow all Malaysians to visit any hospital, private or public, and eventually remove the distinction between the two.

They contend that the scheme would alleviate the burden at government hospitals which are being swamped now due to their low costs, while making private hospitals — currently shunned due to their prices — more accessible.

The doctors further argue that the proposal could lead to better overall health care services for Malaysians, lower out-of-pocket spending, reduced waiting times and more modern medicines and technology.

Additionally, it would also provide patients with greater rights to demand the level of service that they currently may not enjoy at government hospitals.

The system would entail a single-payer, multiple-provider arrangement where public and private institutions would functionally be the same to the patient.

While this all sounds good, it would mean everyone has to contribute. In a situation where only about 10% of the population pay income tax, who shoulders the burden? There is also a “trust deficit” whenever a single body handles all the finances pertaining to something important as healthcare.

Health policy researcher Dr Lim Teck Onn said Malaysia’s current multiple-payer, multiple-provider system was like the US’, compared to the UK (single-payer, single-provider) or to the single-payer, multiple-provider system in Switzerland, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

According to him, the advantages of a single dominant-payer system are lowered costs due to competition among health care providers and the ability to demand for better services from both the public and private sector, but the risk of a social health insurance model is an “incompetent, dishonest, unaccountable bureaucracy created to manage the fund.”

“Can we trust a health care ‘EPF’, basically?” Dr Lim asked. “Can we trust them with so much money?”

But the current system is not going to be sustainable in the long run. MOH says it spends a lot of money on health care though the healthcare budget as % of GDP can even be more. As a collector, MOH isn’t perfomring well. There are also conflict of interests involved. As Dr. Milton Lum puts it

He said, however, that one of the problems with a social health insurance is that less than 10 per cent of the Malaysian population pays income tax.

“You cannot ask the fellow who’s paying income tax to carry a lot of the burden for others,” Dr Lum told Malay Mail Online in an interview.

“So MoH has to decide — what are we going to cover? And the MoH is in a very difficult position. On one hand it is a provider, on the other, it is a regulator. There is a lot of conflict of interest there,” he added. “MoH has to take a hard look at itself and decide what they want to be — regulator or provider.”

The former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president also said if there were to be any change in the health care financing model, MoH should not be the body collecting funds as they “know how to spend money only; it doesn’t know how to collect.”

MMA President Dr. John Chew says:

Malaysia must spend more on health beyond the overall 4.5 per cent of the GDP.

“Whether public or private, it is for the people to decide. At the moment, the split is 50:50. As private becomes more unaffordable, overcrowding in government hospitals is becoming a big problem,” Dr Chew told Malay Mail Online.

So do we need a Single Payer System and if so, is there the political and public will to create one?
Our take is that this is and has been a very difficult political decision to make. The debate will go one for years and in the meantime the healthcare delivery services are in jeopardy as long as economic times are bad.

Do you think Malaysia needs a Single Payer System for healthcare? Take the poll:

A Single Payer System is needed to finance the Malaysian Healthcare system

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Posted in - Nation Tagged with: , ,

Join DOBBS Docquity and stand a chance to win RM1000

Dear Doctors,

Docquity is a mobile platform solely for medical Doctors. It is adopted as the official app for doctors by the MMA and other leading medical associations in ASEAN.
Docquity is also available to Malaysian doctors (with a valid MMC registration number) who are registered members of the DOBBS network. DOBBS or Doctors Only Bulletin Board is the pioneer and largest online community of Malaysian doctors. Established in 2000, DOBBS has now over 13,000 doctor participants in web, social media group and the Docquity app combined.

DOBBS has adopted Docquity as a platform for it’s doctors as unlike other social media apps like Facebook, Docquity is only for doctors. It is a secure and private platform for doctors to share and discuss. Docquity is also being constantly updated and users can now share clinical cases prviately and also participate in CME to get points.

We are pleased to announce that Docquity is now launching a contest to get DOBBS members to sign up and use Docquity. This contest is open to all registered DOBBS members who have not yet signed up with Docquity, and will run for 11 days starting 20th December to 31st December.

Here are the steps

1) Register with Docquity via the Mobile App or from the web sign up
– links at
Authentication is via your mobile number (a PIN will be SMSed to your mobile) and MMC number

2) Authorisation will only be upon verification of your details as an existing registered DOBBS member. If you are a Malaysian doctor but not yet a DOBBS member, you can register using our One Step Registration form

3) Only New Dobbs Docquity sign-ups between 20th December 2016 and 31st December will be entered into the contest

4) 3 lucky winners will get a cash prize of MYR 1000 each.

Good luck Dobbers!

Posted in - Dobbs Tagged with: ,

Homophobia : A Serious Disease

Guest editorial by Dr. Jason Leong

On 23rd May 2015, citizens in Ireland voted heavily in favour of legalizing same sex marriage. On 27th of June the same year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that gay couples can marry. They now make up 20 countries in which such unions are legal.
When Facebook was flooded with rainbow-filtered profile pics, I was unpleasantly surprised to see some of my friends declaring their dismay that ‘God’s laws are no longer being followed’ or that ‘The unnatural has become the norm’ and so on and forth. More interesting, however, was their defensive tone.
One began his post as such, ‘I am so sorry to be seen as traditional, or backward thinking but…’ and one of the comments was ‘I agree! I am so sick of people making fun of me for not being progressive, or liberal…”.
Now, the homophobes were the ones who felt like the minority, being outcasts simply because of who they are and what they believe in. Now, the bigots anxiously crawl out of hiding, full of trepidation at how their friends and family might react to the news they don’t support gay rights.
To me, it was absolutely hilarious to see the tables being turned, albeit briefly.
Oh sure, the arguments then and now haven’t changed. Let’s see if we can quickly debunk two of the major ones, shall we?
‘Homosexuality is unnatural!’ ‘Homosexuality is a choice!’
Firstly, homosexuality abounds in nature. There are more than 130 species of birds which are gay (I bet you the flamingos are knee deep in that). There is an entire book written about homosexuality in animals, aptly titled ‘Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity’.
Secondly, science has found no link to sexuality being a choice. In fact, a 2014 study in the Psychology Journal found that a gene on the X chromosome called Xq28 and a gene on chromosome 8 are more likely to be found in gay men, thus suggesting that sexuality is something we are born with.
And c’mon, if being gay is a choice, then being straight must be a choice too. If you are straight, go on and try your best to be gay, just for a minute. Try and imagine kissing a person of the same sex. Can’t? My point exactly.
‘Same sex marriage denies the child a mother and a father!’
Hey, guess who had heterosexual parents and the benefits of having both father and mother? Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, the politicians stealing our country’s resources and the guy who cut you off in the middle of the road during rush hour and Michael Bay, proof that monsters can be bred from ‘traditional’ upbringings.

Oh and guess what? Children raised by same-sex couples are reportedly happier and healthier, according to a 2014 study by the University of Melbourne which looked at 315 same-sex parents and 500 children.
In fact, I will submit that if and when gay couples get to have children, via adoption or surrogacy or other methods of insemination, the children will be more cherished and valued if only because of the extra hurdles in having them.
A child blessed with same sex parents will always be wanted. After all, 100% of the unwanted teenage pregnancies and 100% cases of baby dumping are through *traditional and heterosexual* relationships.
It is important for those of us who believe in gay rights to speak up loudly for our gay brothers and sisters. Right now, there are kids and teenagers who are either silent in their anguish or being bombarded by friends and family on their ‘affliction’, with insensitive urges to ‘pray the gay away’ or ‘convert back to normal’. It is important for them to know that being homosexual is like vanilla or chocolate, just another flavour.
And to thos who still believe homosexuality is wrong,I leave you with a quote by Victor Hugo who said, “No army can stop an idea whose time has come”.
The idea of treating homosexuals as equals is come now.
There were scholars who thought the Sun circled the Earth, businessmen who used slavery as an economic tool and politicians who deemed women unworthy of voting.
We look back at those misguided people now with derision and disbelief.
That is exactly how our future generation will look upon you. Unprogressive and irrational, clinging to a paradigm past its time.

Dr. Jason Leong is a standup comedian.
Check out his Youtube channel, The Jason Leong Show or Like his Facebook page

Posted in - Ethics, - Guest Tagged with: , , ,