Tanjong Karang MP: Health Budget Still Too Small, SST Hike Will Impact Health Care Costs

Tanjong Karang MP Dr Zulkafperi Hanapi (Bersatu) says MOH’s 2024 budget of RM41.2 billion is “not enough” and calls for health care services to be exempted from the proposed SST hike from 6% to 8%.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 – Tanjong Karang MP Dr Zulkafperi Hanapi yesterday described the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) 2024 allocation of RM41.2 billion as inadequate, and has called for a national health insurance scheme to be implemented instead.

The Bersatu lawmaker said that even if public health care spending were to be doubled to 5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), as outlined by most political parties in their 15th General Election (GE15) manifesto, it would still be “insufficient” and “unsustainable” for MOH to deliver and improve health care services.

“The full brunt of [the proposed public health care spending of] 4 to 5 per cent of the GDP will still be insufficient and unsustainable for the MOH to provide a modern and updated health care service that integrates all modern technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence,” Dr Zulkafperi, a medical doctor who previously served in the military, said in his debate on Budget 2024 in the Dewan Rakyat.

Dr Zulkafperi said the government should instead focus on transforming health care financing by promptly implementing a national health insurance scheme.

“A commitment to transform health care financing through co-payments between the government, taxpayers, employers, and employees under the implementation of the national social health insurance scheme is very much needed,” he said.

The Opposition MP also warned about the potential increase in health care service costs due to the government’s plan to increase the sales and services tax (SST) from 6 per cent to 8 per cent.

“No announcement of a goods and services tax (GST) is certainly a relief. However, the [two percentage point] increase in service tax is quite alarming, considering that people are already grappling with rising prices of essential goods due to economic vulnerabilities and the depreciation of the ringgit.

“The service tax of 6 per cent will be raised to 8 per cent, except for the food and beverages and telecommunications sectors. This is undoubtedly going to hinder or slow down the economic cycle, which may lead to increased service charges across various sectors.

“Furthermore, it will also contribute to the hike in the prices of all goods and services.

“The health care sector should also be exempted from this service tax increase because it is a basic necessity for the people, and service costs are already quite high,” said Dr Zulkafperi.

In a separate press conference held in Parliament today, the Tanjong Karang MP explained that the SST increase by two percentage points, from 6 per cent to 8 per cent, effectively represents a 33 per cent increase in percentage terms.

“This two percentage point service tax increase is quite substantial and will impact the chain of pricing for goods themselves.

“Services will also be increased to 8 per cent, so we are quite certain that, as we approach 2024, following the approval of this budget, the prices of nearly all goods will rise.

“We are already affected by the high cost of living and the high prices of goods now, and as we approach 2024, we will all feel even more pressured. The people will be further burdened by these high costs,” Dr Zulkafperi said.

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