KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The Social Security Organisation (Socso) has set conditions in covering dialysis treatments for new applicants with kidney failure, effective from January 10 this year.
According to a recent circular by the social security fund sighted by CodeBlue, the eligibility for end-stage renal disease patients getting free dialysis covered by Socso is now tied to the respective new applicant’s tenure and quantum of contribution to the fund.
The new conditions, as listed in a January 20 memo to all Socso state directors and branch managers, state that insured individuals must have already been living with a disease that required dialysis and presented an invalidity notice before turning 60.
They must also have paid at least 24 months’ worth of monthly deductions to Socso within 40 consecutive months before the invalidity notice is received.
The third condition requires that the monthly deductions paid comprise at least one-third of their first deduction upon entering the scheme until their invalidity notice is received.
“This means that OBs (those insured) who do not fulfil the above criteria do not fulfil the requirements for dialysis treatment,” read the circular by Socso chief executive Dr Mohammed Azman Aziz Mohammed dated January 17, which was attached with the January 20 memo.
“These criteria are subject to new applications for dialysis treatment, while those currently receiving dialysis treatment will continue receiving the treatment,” he added.
Dr Mohammed Azman’s circular justified limiting dialysis coverage based on Socso’s board meeting last December 5 that approved a memorandum titled “Proposed Action Plans To Bridge the Gap Between SOCSO’s Assets and Liability and Improve Fund’s Sustainability”. The memo was not attached to the circular.
Socso — which mainly protects employees against occupational injuries and invalidity — provides haemodialysis facilities and support for qualified insured persons who suffer from end-stage renal failure.
The treatment is provided free-of-charge at any Socso dialysis panel centres, government hospitals, private dialysis centres, or facilities run by NGOs, while those who seek treatment at non-Socso dialysis panel centres can expense it to Socso.
In an immediate response, the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said it was appalled by the new conditions as they would limit access or outrightly deny “scores” of disadvantaged contributors and beneficiaries from receiving free dialysis treatment.
MTUC secretary-general J. Solomon said the decision affects new contributors and beneficiaries registered under Socso’s Invalidity Pension, Employment Injury and Invalidity Grant schemes who suffer from chronic kidney failure, with those hardest hit being the new contributors under the Invalidity Grant Scheme.
“New applicants from this category of contributors will be denied free dialysis altogether as they do not meet the minimum revised conditions,” he said, calling the move “most cruel”, “outrageous”, and “inhumane” as it affects the destitute and poorest of the poor.
He said that contributors under the Invalidity Grant Scheme, for instance, are those who could not afford to remit monthly contributions to Socso regularly. As a result, they are ruled as ineligible for Socso’s invalidity pension despite being laid off from their jobs due to work-related injury and/or illness.
Now “armed with new conditions”, Socso has further disqualified them from free dialysis treatment should they need it, he lamented.
He also claimed that the move contradicts the Employees’ Social Security Act 1969, Section 57 of which states that an invalid person suffering from or claiming to suffer from invalidity or permanent disablement may be provided facilities for physical or vocational rehabilitation by Socso for free.
Urging Socso to retract the circular immediately, he said “any tampering” of workers’ benefits must first be discussed extensively with primary stakeholders that include the MTUC and the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), at the National Labour Advisory Council.
Solomon further alleged that the Socso board did not approve the proposal at any of its board meetings, especially on December 5, 2019, in which the board purportedly said it would revisit the proposal after he opposed it. Solomon was booted out as a Socso board member on December 31.
Socso last year said it had found a disturbing trend of Malaysians applying for invalidity pensions, despite not being genuinely invalid. Half of 38,000 applications last year were due to non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions, and diabetes complications.
Malaysia reported about a 13 per cent annual increase of treated kidney failure cases in the last decade, the second-highest rise of the incidence rate worldwide, rising an average of 13.2 per cent per year from 2003 to 2016, according to the United States Renal Data System annual data report for 2018.