Healthcare in Malaysia, at first glance, may seem confusing to navigate in terms of choosing between public or private, finding the right doctor, and getting affordable care when you need treatment. The Malaysian Healthcare system is advanced due to extensive support from the Malaysian government through investment in hospital’s medical infrastructure1. The improvements in the last ten years are significant enough to be on par with well-developed countries, comprising of both well-trained medical staff and excellent hospital facilities.
The system is organised into a two-tier health system, public universal healthcare for its citizens and a private healthcare system. Access to the public system is only for Malaysian nationals, and currently, there is no current reciprocal healthcare policy that the government holds with other countries.
Get to know these 6 important aspects of the Malaysian Healthcare system:
1. Public vs. private healthcare in Malaysia
Public healthcare is paid by Malaysian citizens through general taxation of income. This public universal healthcare is accessible to all legal residents of Malaysia, funded by the government, to provide low-cost universal and comprehensive services2. In recent years, the government has taken the initiative to increase funding for the healthcare sector to compensate for a large ageing demographic in Malaysia as well as an overall increase in population.
Public healthcare is the cheaper option; however private hospitals have their advantages over public ones. For instance, many public hospitals are overcrowded from higher number of patients. Private healthcare, on the other hand, has more doctors, due to higher working salaries within the private sphere. Another advantage is that private hospitals offer faster services for their patients since the ratio of doctors to patients is higher3
2. Medical staff and facilities
The quality of doctors, surgeons and other medical staff do not differ between public or private hospitals. Medical professionals in Malaysia have been trained and educated in modern day best practices in healthcare, with many having studied in universities abroad.
Much like medical staff, hospital equipment is of high quality, undergoing standards inspections from governmental overseers4. Because of the excellence of medical facilities, Malaysia has become a destination for medical tourism, attracting foreigners looking for safe, reliable surgery or treatment for a variety of ailments5.
3. Costs associated with treatment
Costs in recent years for private treatment in Malaysia have been rising for several reasons. This is mostly because of an increase in patients moving from private hospitals to public hospitals, causing loss of income6. Also due to new advanced medicine and equipment costs being introduced to keep up with international standards, private hospitals have difficulty funding these expenses.
To stem the rise of costs in both public and private clinics, a bundle system has been proposed to include the expenditure for the entire treatment cycle7. This would group illnesses into different bundles to control and separate the costs between common and rare ailments, which is why you would need a specific medical insurance to cover uncommon illnesses. Critical Illness insurance would be the best package covering these rare ailments that affect you and your family.
4. Benefits of private medical insurance
Since the Malaysian government does not offer a national medical insurance program, buying private medical and life insurance is a must. Medical insurance is usually provided by employers; however, you may need your own additional health insurance to provide better coverage. Health insurance coverage should cover common ailments, doctor’s consultations, hospital fees, and prescription medication. You can choose a medical insurance policy that protects you and your loved ones with flexible plans that consider rising medical costs throughout your lifetime.
Medical insurance covers patients for both public and private hospital visits, meaning whichever you prefer for treatment can be covered. However, private hospitals will still charge more than public ones. So only the portion of the cost stipulated within the insurance can be reimbursed, since private clinics require payments up front. Get health insurance that guarantees easy admission to a large number and variety of hospitals.
5. Healthcare for expatriates
Expatriates moving to Malaysia have little to worry about in terms of receiving high-quality medical treatment that is similar to their home country. Almost every doctor in Malaysia can speak English, and many have studied medicine in western universities8.
However, since public healthcare is only available to residents, expats are required to buy medical insurance covering while living in Malaysia. While private insurance may be expensive compared to what residents pay, insurance and private clinic consultations costs are relatively low compared to western countries. Visits to a doctor at a private clinic averages US5$, with consultations with a healthcare specialist averaging US$309.
6. Issues you may need to avoid
The farther away you move from urban districts, the more difficult it is to find sufficient medical clinics. To supplement a lack of facilities for public healthcare in rural areas, teleconsultations take place between doctors in the isolated location with doctors in other hospitals for better access to treatment and information.
Also, public medical facilities are overbooked, while private hospitals are attracting more doctors. Even with the Malaysian government’s subsidies and investment attraction initiatives, overall spending on public hospitals in recent years has lowered10. This means that more doctors are leaving the public sector for a better income working in private practices. Unfortunately, the cost of private medical facilities are rising, which means residents are increasingly visiting public clinics instead. The result is that public healthcare facilities have more patients than ever before, but fewer doctors available to treat them.
1 Economic Transformation Programme; Healthcare.
2 Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. 2013 (Pg. 17) Malaysia Health System Review.
3 Borneo Post Online. (December 12, 2010) Public versus private on medical care.
4 Medical Device Authority Ministry of Health Malaysia. About MDB; Our Core Business.
5 Asia Pacific Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. 2013 (Pg. 38) Malaysia Health System Review.
6 The Star Online. December 2016. Healing Malaysia’s healthcare system.
7 The Star Online. January 2017. Doctors eyeing bundle system to cut rising medical costs.
8 Expat Arrivals. Healthcare in Malaysia; Medical facilities in Malaysia.
9 Expatmedicare. Living in Kuala Lumpur: Healthcare, An Expat’s Guide.
10 The Economist Intelligence Unit. Healthcare; How Sustainable is Malaysian Healthcare.
The above articles are intended for informational purposes only. AIA accepts no responsibility for loss, which may arise from reliance on information contained in the articles.