Some Tambun Voters Want Cheaper Private Health Care

A pensioner says he can afford to pay RM1,000 for treatment in private health care facilities, but not RM20,000 to RM30,000, besides claiming that private hospitals are not transparent with their fees.

IPOH, Nov 6 – Fixing the economy may be a top priority for most voters, but party supporters attending nomination day for the Tambun race in Perak shared hopes of paying less for private health care.

Voters also said proper use of public funds can help those with chronic disease get treatment.

For longtime PKR supporter, Manoharan A. Chinapayan, health care can be made more accessible to the poor if private medical services are offered at a reduced price.

“I fall under the bottom 40 per cent (B40) income category. If I go to the private sector for treatment and they ask me to pay RM20,000 to RM30,000, I cannot afford it. But if the cost is over RM1,000, I can,” the 68-year-old pensioner told CodeBlue when met yesterday.

Manoharan’s last role in civil service was as a medical assistant at a government dental clinic in Ipoh. He started his career at Hospital Bahagia, the country’s largest psychiatric hospital, where he served for 16 years before joining the Police Volunteer Reserve Corp.

During his time at Hospital Bahagia, Manoharan was also in the military reserve force or the Territorial Army Regimen. Manoharan currently receives a monthly pension of RM750. 

Former civil servant and longtime PKR supporter Manoharan A. Chinapayan at the nomination day rally in Tambun, Perak, on November 5, 2022. Picture by Alifah Zainuddin.

As a former civil servant, Manohan enjoys free health care at public health facilities – meaning he is exempted from paying the nominal registration fee of RM1 to RM5 at government clinics and hospitals.

Manoharan also enjoys discounts for referrals to private hospitals should he need surgery or specialised medical treatment. Despite the discount, however, the cost of private health care remains high and unaffordable.

“For people in the low-income group, the B40, RM1,000 is a big amount to them. If you are a government servant who is retired in the low category, monthly you are only getting RM450 to RM600.

“Let’s say I work in the government sector, my ending salary was about RM1,000. Now, I’m getting RM750 monthly – that’s my pencen (pension). Why I can still survive is because my sons and daughters are settled and they are married so I can still manage,” Manoharan said.

Tambun hopeful Anwar Ibrahim (Pakatan Harapan-PKR) speaks at a Kenduri Rakyat Klebang Restu event at Padang Kelebang Restu in Ipoh, Perak, on November 5, 2022. Picture by Saw Siow Feng.

Manoharan went on to say that private hospitals are “not transparent” with their fees, often using up the entirety of a B40 person’s medical insurance coverage.

“Most companies now deal with medical cards. So they will approach low-income people and get them to buy the medical card where you pay RM200 to RM300 monthly. Let’s say the card covers RM20,000 to RM40,000. When people buy the card, they go to a private hospital, and what ends up happening is they will finish off the medical card amount.

“The hospital will finish it off and at the same time, will ask for cash payment. They will say the card is used up and you have to pay RM6,000 to RM7,000 in cash,” Manoharan said.

CodeBlue previously reported Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM) CEO Mark O’Dell as attributing medical claims inflation to a “buffet syndrome”, where the value of premiums paid are maximised, partly due to unregulated private hospital charges.

Every Support Counts In A Patient’s Journey

Roslee Mohd Tahir, a Reformasi ‘98 supporter, at the nomination day rally in Tambun, Perak, on November 5, 2022. Picture by Alifah Zainuddin.

Roslee Mohd Tahir, a 58-year-old diabetic patient and PKR supporter, spoke about the importance of community support in a patient’s care journey.

A native of Parit, Perak, Roslee said he received assistance amounting to about RM20,000 over the years he has lived with diabetes, including donations from friends and zakat. To be eligible to receive zakat, the recipient must be poor or in need.

“I’ve never felt left out,” said Roslee, whose complications from diabetes eventually led to a finger and an above-knee amputation. His treatment is also financially supported via family medical benefits enjoyed by his son who works at a municipal council.

Prior to his current endeavour as a small business owner, Roslee was a coordinating officer at the Selangor Menteri Besar (MB) office under then-MB Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Roslee said he was pleased with the candidacy of spina bifida researcher and patient advocate Noraishah Mydin Abdul-Aziz in Putrajaya as a representative of people with disabilities. “I hope the needs of the disabled community will be looked into further.”

Health Is Important, But Economy A Priority

Civil servant Aidil Hakim Ahmad at the nomination day rally in Tambun, Perak, on November 5, 2022. Picture by Alifah Zainuddin.

For 44-year-old civil servant Aidil Hakim Ahmad, a Perikatan Nasional supporter, his primary concern in this general election is the growing cost of living.

“What I’m asking for (as a voter) is simple: stabilise the economy. The overnight policy rate (OPR) has gone up four times this year – there’s no way we can keep up with it. We have loans for our house and our car that need to be paid off,” Aidil said.

Despite having no immediate health concerns, Aidil’s decision to mask up is telling. Aidil and his wife were among the minority who wore properly fitted masks at the rally. 

“For health, I think it all boils down to a person’s level of awareness. It’s like wearing a face mask, a lot of people at the rally didn’t have face masks on,” Aidil said. 

“Sometimes you won’t know what hits you until you really feel the brunt of it.”

The Tambun parliamentary seat in the 15th general election will be contested by four candidates: incumbent Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Perikatan Nasional-Bersatu), Anwar Ibrahim (Pakatan Harapan-PKR), Aminuddin Md Hanafiah (Barisan Nasional-Umno), and Abdul Rahim Tahir (Gerakan Tanah Air-Pejuang).

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