Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 28th of July, 2016
Consult with stakeholders before introducing a national healthcare insurance scheme to avoid another 1Care fiasco
Over the past few days, the Minister of Health, Dr. S. Subramaniam and the Secretary General of the Treasury, Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah both announced and confirmed that the government is planning to introduce a national healthcare insurance scheme in the very near future. Dr. Mohd Irwan went so far as to say that the plan will be presented as part of the 2017 Budget which means that the details of this plan will be finalized by October of this year, at the very latest.
One still remembers the public backlash when the 1Care national healthcare insurance was proposed back in 2011 and the plan eventually had to be scrapped / postponed. Given that healthcare and healthcare financing is an incredibly complicated issue and there are many options available on the table for countries to adopt, it is astounding that the government is still taking the top down approach in coming up with a plan and then announcing its introduction to Malaysians without any public consultations.
A well-known Health Economist from Harvard University, Professor William Hsiao, has been working with the government to design his proposed healthcare insurance scheme. Recently, the Joint Learning Network for University Healthcare Access in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Malaysia, the World Bank and other NGOs, held its global meeting in Putrajaya where issues of healthcare access were discussed and examples across countries where shared. I am sure that interested stakeholders including Malaysian Members of Parliament with backgrounds in the health sector would have benefitted from being briefed by Professor Hsiao and also attending the JLN meeting in Putrajaya. And yet, this has not been done, as far as I know.
The consequence of this top-down decision making process is that there will be a lot of misinformation and speculation as to the underlying motivation for introducing this healthcare insurance scheme when it is announced. This will make it all but impossible to have a rational and fact-based discussion and debate on this issue.
I call upon the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance to hold consultations with the various stakeholder groups including Members of Parliament so that the details of this healthcare insurance plan can be discussed and feedback can be collected before it can be introduced to the public. It is not too late to avoid another 1Care fiasco.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang