PETALING JAYA: Insurance companies in the country have warned that medical and health insurance premiums will be increased if the cost of obtaining healthcare continues to rise.

Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (Liam), Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia (Piam and Malaysian Takaful Association (MTA), in a joint statement today, cited information from the 2019 Global Medical Trends Survey Report by Willis Towers Watson.

The report revealed that Malaysia currently ranks among the highest in the region in the area of medical costs and that a 13.1% increase is expected this year.

This has raised concerns among stakeholders as the rising costs could force more Malaysians to seek treatment at government facilities.

“If healthcare costs are not contained, increase in premiums for medical and health insurance will be inevitable. And if medical insurance is no longer affordable, it will drive more patients to government hospitals.

“For self-paying patients, it will cost them more to seek treatment at private clinics and hospitals,” they said in a joint statement today.

The associations pointed out that the total health expenditure in 2018 was RM60.1 billion, of which 52% was funded by the government, followed by private household out-of-pocket (35%), private insurance (7%), corporations (4%) and others (2%).

They also made note of the government’s move to deregulate the consultation fees of private clinic, but stressed the importance of transparency in medical charges as this will stimulate competition among doctors who will then offer more affordable rates and subsequently help regulate prices over the long term.

“This (upfront disclosure of consultation fees) will help the public make informed decisions on the cost of treatment. In this regard, private clinics and hospitals should publish their actual average costs, similar to what is currently practised in some countries.

“We also hope that the Ministry of Health will look into setting up benchmark prices for drugs and pharmaceutical supplies. These are essential items to patients and should be made affordable to the rakyat,” they said.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad had on Dec 6 announced that consultation fees by general practitioners (GPs) in the private sector would be deregulated, following approval from the Cabinet. This came following calls from the GPs and dentists of private clinics who lamented that the current consultation fees were too low.

At present, doctors in private clinics can only charge patients between RM10 and RM35 per consultation, a fee that has not been revised since 1992.