We Support A National Health Insurance Scheme — Arthritis Foundation Malaysia & Psoriasis Association Of Malaysia

Arthritis Foundation Malaysia and Psoriasis Association of Malaysia back MOH’s proposal for a national health insurance scheme, saying this will boost access to expensive biologics that cost RM20,000-RM50,000 annually. Targeted therapies are an investment.

Arthritis Foundation Malaysia (AFM) and Psoriasis Association of Malaysia (PAM) commend the Ministry of Health (MOH) for proposing a national health insurance mechanism with contributions from employees, employers, and the government.

This initiative, as reported by CodeBlue in its November 23, 2023 report headlined, “MOH Moots National Health Insurance With Employee, Employer, Government Contributions“, is a significant step towards improving health care access and affordability in Malaysia.

We hope the proposed national health insurance system will address the challenges faced by Malaysians, particularly in providing affordable and accessible care for patients with chronic illnesses such as psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

By incorporating employee, employer, and government contributions, MOH’s proposal has the potential to create a sustainable and inclusive health care lifeline that benefits Malaysians who suffer greatly from various chronic and lifelong diseases that have no cure.

AFM and PAM recognise the financial burden faced by patients with chronic life-long autoimmune diseases. The yearly cost of accessing critical medications can be expensive. The proposed national health insurance system could significantly alleviate this financial strain.

Many patients with chronic autoimmune diseases need to access newer medications that work in a focused way. One such category of targeted therapy drugs are biologics, which are made from living cells and costly to manufacture.

These drugs can be extremely effective in managing symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients, many of whom have been suffering symptoms such as widespread skin lesions, excruciating pain, stiffness, swelling (due to inflammation), mental trauma & even loneliness. Autoimmune patients can also develop comorbidities which further burdens and complicates their health situation.

The cost of biologics can be prohibitive – it is estimated that annual costs using these biologic drugs are between RM20,000 and RM50,000 – making it essential for the government to consider the financial implications for patients. Newer targeted therapy drugs are emerging, though they are just as costly as biologics.

Despite the initial high costs, targeted therapies for chronic autoimmune diseases represent a crucial investment for the government. It’s imperative to weigh the substantial long-term benefits and “positive gains” that may result from the adoption of a national health insurance system that addresses the costs of targeted therapies.

A national health insurance system that includes these treatments could significantly improve the lives of many Malaysians stricken in the youth stages or prime working life stages.

Stable health conditions, achieved through effective targeted therapies, enable patients to continue their work employment. This allows active engagement in the economy, contributes to tax revenues, and provides financial security for patients’ families, among other multiplier effects.

These “positive gains” should prompt a shift in the government’s perspective — from seeing this as merely an increase in health care spending to recognising it as an investment that yields long-term financial savings.

For instance, preventing comorbidities through successful treatment not only enhances patient well-being but also reduces future public health care expenditures, exemplifying a “cost offset due to benefits gained” approach.

In conclusion, AFM and PAM fully support the MOH’s proposal for a national health insurance system. This initiative has the potential to contribute many positive gains for patients and society.

We urge the government to prepare the details of this proposal in close collaboration with key stakeholders such as patient advocates to ensure its successful implementation.

We look forward to contributing to the discussions and development of this crucial initiative. We firmly believe that the voice of patients must be included in any decision-making pertaining to the national health care system.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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