Government Seeks Parliamentary Debate And Vote On Health White Paper

Dr Kelvin Yii, the Health Minister’s special advisor, says the government is requesting a parliamentary debate and vote on the Health White Paper for bipartisan support, learning from previous failed attempts for reform like 1Care social health insurance.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 – The government has requested for a debate on the Health White Paper in the upcoming parliamentary meeting to get bipartisan support for health care reform.

Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa’s special advisor Dr Kelvin Yii said that the House Speaker would make the final decision on the matter. 

The upcoming Dewan Rakyat meeting is a short one, scheduled only for 11 days beginning from May 22. 

Three bills related to the decriminalisation of attempted suicide are expected to be tabled for second reading and passage in the upcoming meeting. The government is also expected to table a tobacco and vape control bill in the same meeting that may be controversial and require more time for debate.

“We want the Health White Paper to be debated and voted upon to get bipartisan support to launch this important health care reform,” Dr Yii, who is also Bandar Kuching MP from the DAP, told CodeBlue yesterday.

“We want to learn from the failures of previous attempts for reform, including the proposed 1Care system.”

Dr Yii said that if the Dewan Rakyat Speaker approves a debate for the Health White Paper, the document proposing health care reforms over 15 years will likely go to a voice vote, rather than the government calling for a bloc vote to formally record bipartisan support.

During the Najib Razak administration’s 1Malaysia initiative in 2012, the government put forth a proposal for a social health insurance programme called 1Care that aimed to reform health care financing, including mandatory 10 per cent deductions of one’s monthly gross salary.

But multiple stakeholders from the private health care sector – as well as DAP leaders back then, some of whom remain MPs today – had vociferously protested against 1Care with a “Tak Nak 1Care” campaign, forcing the government to withdraw the proposal.

Dr Yii told Bernama Radio in an interview yesterday that social health insurance was one of the proposals in the Health White Paper.

“We have put a target to increase health care spending from 2 per cent to 5 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product), but we are also exploring other models, like national health insurance, to ensure that health care financing continues to be sustainable and equitable for all citizens.”

The Opposition previously expressed support for social health insurance. Kuala Langat MP Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi, who heads Perikatan Nasional’s health committee, told CodeBlue last March that now is the time to introduce a payroll-funded national health insurance scheme.

Although the Health White Paper will likely pass a voice vote easily in the Dewan Rakyat, this does not mean automatic approval for proposals that may require separate legislations to be drafted for future parliamentary passage.

“Parliamentary approval for the Health White Paper will be approval in principle of the direction of the proposals,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue.

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