Nurul Izzah: Social Health Insurance Can Streamline Public, Private Care

Nurul Izzah Anwar says the working level for the Health White Paper included advocates for hybrid social health insurance to streamline public and private health care services, amid escalating health care costs. “How do you get the best of both worlds?”

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 – Nurul Izzah Anwar has indicated the government’s plans to introduce social health insurance to reform health care financing in the country. 

Nurul Izzah, who is the co-head of the secretariat for the Advisory Committee to the Finance Minister, cited the working level at the Ministry of Health (MOH) for the Health White Paper (HWP) that included advocates for “hybrid social health insurance” moving forward.

“This is important as well because you need to understand and sort of streamline and arrange the services accorded by the private sector as well as the public sector,” Nurul Izzah told a panel discussion at the Khazanah Megatrends Forum 2023 here today.

“How do you get the best of both worlds in an environment of a future filled with escalating health care costs? I think this is important, not just prevention per se, but reform, taking into account how it can be implemented to future-proof Malaysia where everyone can have access to quality health care.”

Dr Kelvin Yii, who is special advisor to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, previously said the MOH is looking at social health insurance models overseas, such as in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The Bandar Kuching MP also pointed out that it was difficult to raise government allocations for health care due to fiscal constraints. Public health care in Malaysia is mostly funded by annual allocations by the federal government from general taxation.

Although the HWP, which was recently passed by Parliament, did not specify social health insurance, the document proposed a health benefits package that provides a range of services and medicines at appropriate fees for the same level of care – irrespective of whether the health care service provider is from the public, private, or not-for-profit sector. 

The HWP also envisioned creating a special health fund to finance the health benefits package. Government allocations would be the main source of funding for the special health fund, possibly including “contributions from individuals and big donors in future”.

In Singapore’s social health insurance system, MediShield Life coverage is mandatory for Singapore citizens and permanent residents; every Singapore resident pays premiums.

Singapore’s MOH states that the government provides various subsidies for certain groups, including the lower-to-middle income, to keep premiums affordable, promising that “no one will lose MediShield Life coverage due to inability to afford premiums.”

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