Side Views

1 Care: Show us the mathematics — John Teo

February 19, 2012

FEB 19 — 1 Care for 1 Malaysia sounds like a very good slogan but behind this impressive slogan and all the controversies, rhetoric, claims and counter claims lies a very big and fundamental question of where is the funding of such a massive overhaul of our healthcare system going to come from?

We know that the basic principle of part-government and part-public funding underlies this concept and the reason behind this shift of funding policy is the ever-escalating health costs which the government cannot continue to provide funding for indefinitely.

Let me quote two very important facts. 1) According to the 2012 Budget that was announced by our prime minister, the allocation for health totals RM1.8 billion, which is equivalent to 3.7 per cent of the total budget. There were other ministries that have higher budget, notable ones being the Ministry of Defence.

The World Health Organisation recommends that at least five to six per cent of a total budget be allocated to health. Many other countries allocate up to seven to eight per cent. Malaysia is way below that mark.

2) A recent quote by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, as published in The Star on February 19 is as follows “I am of the view that we must introduce the GST. We have 28 million people but only one million are paying tax.”

My questions to the ruling government are as follows. 1) Since Malaysia’s health allocation is still way below the WHO recommendations and that many other countries have much higher contributions, is it justifiable at this point to claim that we cannot continue to fund our healthcare system when many other countries are funding theirs at a much higher rate?

2) Even if this inability to fund the healthcare system is inevitable, wouldn’t it be prudent to cut costs first by running the system more efficiently, multitasking staff rather than having one staff for each and every task, preventing leakages and unnecessary wastage of medicine, resources etc and only finally if all this is done, then sources of other funding such as from the public are considered as any basic financial course will have taught us.

3) If only one million Malaysians are paying tax, how is it mathematically possible for the one million to support the healthcare bill of 28 million? How can the other 27 million contribute to the fund, when they are not even eligible to pay tax? Even if they are supposed to contribute to the fund, how much as total percentage will come from the 27 million? Inevitably, the government’s bill will still be substantially higher than what it is today considering that a big portion of this general fund will obviously go to the third party who will be tasked with running this massive system.

These are fundamental questions that need to be answered before such a scheme can even be considered in finer detail.

Healthcare is a human right and each and every government of this world is obliged to provide to its citizens the best of healthcare in the form that is most efficient, cost effective and acceptable to its citizens.

It is an integral principle in medicine that “First do no Harm” and each and every government is mandated to hold on to this principle where the provision of healthcare is a concern, for any wrong move may result in tragedies befalling families that will never heal.

I plead with the government concerned to not institute any massive steps without being very sure that the results will not harm its citizens and that if the proposal was from the heart then the results will always be good and if it is otherwise, then let the Person above judge our actions.

* John Teo reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.