Consumers, Employers Slam Doctors’ Fee Deregulation

Insurance providers may raise premiums, says the Malaysian Employers Federation.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 9 — Consumers and employers’ groups have expressed concern about higher health care costs with the deregulation of private doctors’ and dentists’ consultation fees.

The Star reported Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) as saying that the average cost of outpatient treatment covered by employers was about above RM4,000 per employee annually. There are some eight million workers in the private sector.

“Having the fees open to market forces may, in theory, lower the charges but without a mechanism to regulate such fees, the sky is the limit,” MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan was quoted saying.

“Some employers also take up insurance even for outpatient treatment. Following the deregulation, the insurance providers may also increase their premiums.”

Shamsuddin also reportedly complained about increased administrative work for companies that would now have to compare consultation fees among various medical facilities.

Health care group Citizens’ Health Initiative told The Star that the government hardly consulted consumer groups and the public about its decision to allow private general practitioners (GPs), dentists, and specialists to set their own professional rates.

“We were caught unawares,” Citizens’ Health Initiative member Dr Chee Heng Leng was quoted saying.

“There is competition in urban areas, but in areas with only one doctor, it will be difficult for people to travel to other places.

“They tend to go to the nearest facility when they are sick and need care urgently.”

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) reportedly said the government must ensure affordable charges at private hospitals, suggesting that facilities owned by government-linked companies offer affordable rates.

“The government must play a significant role in making healthcare accessible and affordable for all so that people do not suffer,” he was quoted saying, adding that doctors should display their charges.

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