KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — Some private clinics are already setting new consultation fees, despite the law not being amended yet to allow this, the Dewan Negara heard today.
This follows Cabinet’s landmark decision to deregulate private medical practitioners’ consultation fees, 13 years after they were legislated in 2006 with rates set in law by the federal government. But the government has yet to gazette legal amendments to put into effect deregulation.
Senator Dr Nuing Jeluing claimed that some private clinics have already begun charging their own rates, deviating from the RM10 to RM35 rates set under Schedule 7 of the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998.
“That is why, I think, the Ministry (of Health) needs to state when the enforcement date is,” the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu member told the Senate today, but did not name the clinics that were doing so, or how much the purported new rates were.
Under Schedule 7 of PHFSA, private clinic general practitioners (GPs) and dentists’ consultation fees are capped at RM10 to RM35, and RM25 to RM250 respectively. Under Schedule 13, private hospital specialists’ consultation fees are legislated at a rate of RM80 to RM235.
Physician groups have proposed increasing family doctors’ consultation fees to RM30 to RM125, after the government decided to deregulate private medical practitioners’ professional charges.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, in responding to Dr Nuing’s claim, told Parliament’s upper house that all GPs, dentists, and specialists in private clinics and hospitals are not allowed to set their own consultation fees yet.
He did not mention if any disciplinary action could be taken against those who have done so, or continue to do so until the deregulation decision has been gazetted into law.
Saying this could take one to six months from now, Dr Lee explained that the decision would only be enforced after a series of discussions and engagements.
First, the Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) would be tasked to come up with a regulatory impact assessment, followed by stakeholder engagement sessions, the Gopeng MP said.
Only then would the proposed changes to the PHFSA be drafted by the Ministry of Health (MOH), he added.
Next, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) would review the proposed changes to the law, and once the AGC approves it, the changes would be given back to MOH for the minister to sign off on the decision and gazette it.
PHFSA allows for the health minister to unilaterally make amendments to the law.
The PKR leader said the length of the process depends on the speed at which the AGC vets the proposed amendments, and how fast the MPC comes up with their regulatory impact assessment.
He previously said this could be a done deal as early as Christmas this year.
Dr Lee did not say today where in this process the MOH is at currently.
Meanwhile, to Senator Dr Nuing’s original question on the deregulation decision, Dr Lee said private doctors and dentists will be required to advertise their fees once the decision comes into effect, so that patients will know in advance what the particular clinic’s rates are.
He also said that the suggestion to amend Schedule 7 of PHFSA had been raised to Cabinet as early as April 24 this year.
Schedule 7 has not been amended since PHFSA was gazetted. Schedule 13 was amended in 2013 to raise hospital GPs’ consultation fees to RM30 to RM125.
Following this, Cabinet requested the National Cost of Living Action Council (NACCOL) to discuss the matter and take into account the impact of the increase in private clinic consultation fees on the cost of living.
An impact study on the matter was then carried out with the cooperation of MOH, the Malaysian Medical Association and the Department of Statistics, with its findings debated within NACCOL on November 12.
The decision to deregulate the fees was discussed in Cabinet on December 6, and subsequently approved, Dr Lee said.