PETALING JAYA: With demand for healthcare services and medicines increasing due to the longer life expectancy of Malaysians, consumer groups and experts say the government has to ensure medical costs remain low.
Research unit Fitch Solutions, in an analysis, said the aging population will see demand for healthcare services increase, with 15.3% of Malaysians to be aged 65 years and above by 2030.
It said this will present pharmaceutical and healthcare companies with significant business expansion and revenue-earning opportunities, with Malaysia’s medical system to also be increasingly geared towards the needs of the elderly.
Fitch Solutions predicts that the cost to obtain treatment and medicines would increase, necessitating the continued enforcement of cost-containment measures.
Malaysia Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang said it is time a national healthcare financing scheme be established to ensure all Malaysians can receive similar treatment, regardless of their financial well-being.
“Presently, it seems like those who seek treatment in public hospitals are those who are not well off, which is the wrong way to look at things.
“There must be universal health coverage, where everyone can use all the health services they need, while also ensuring that users are not exposed to financial hardship,” he told theSun yesterday.
“It will involve cost, but matters like this, especially when it involves the B40 group, must be given priority and not politicised.”
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, in July last year, had also said it was his goal to see an efficient healthcare financing system that would see participation from the government, private sector and insurance companies.
Amrahi said the government should also invest more on preventive action by educating the public on healthy living and aging to ensure the elderly do not contract diseases, which were more costly to address.
In addition, Amrahi said there was also an urgent need to regulate drug prices at private hospitals and clinics in view of the aging population.
“People always ask how do we address the issue of an aging population. But how do we do that when the prices of drugs are not even standardised, with a lot of profiteering happening?”
As such he said it was incumbent on the government, which is studying the proposal for drug price control, to set a ceiling price that all industry players have to abide.
This sentiment was shared by Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj.
“Data has shown that prices in Malaysia are high by international standards, and this is a major concern for consumers. Healthcare services are supposed to be the right of all citizens, it is not a luxury.
“We hope the government will regulate prices sooner rather than later, to ensure affordability,” he said, adding that Fomca is fully behind the proposal for price control.