The Galen Center for Health and Social Policy was one of the first to lend their take on the newly imposed initiatives by the Ministry of Health. The current government received applause by Galen Center for ensuring the commitment for healthcare has been upheld and improved.
The people of the low-income group, also known as B40, were especially focused on by the National B40 Health Protection Fund. It is said to ensure preparedness and resilience in responding to ongoing and future health challenges, particularly for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
However, there has been a number of concerns on the proposed healthcare fund, primarily on the financial sustainability of it all.
Commenting on the recent 2019 Budget tabling, Azrul Mohd Khalib, CEO of Galen Center for Health and Social Policy said, “It is a welcoming news that in their very first budget, the new government has continued the previous government’s commitment of incrementally increasing the allocation for health. This is the highest ever allocation, at RM29 billion. It is an increase of 7.8% compared to this year and making up almost 10% of the overall budget.”
“The government took the first positive step today in investing and aiming to transform Malaysian healthcare from a sickness service to a health and well-being service.”Azrul Mohd Khalib
Sugar Tax and Other Heartening Initiatives
Azrul also said that some of the initiatives announced at the tabling came as a surprise, and that it is heartening to note that the government has taken up on their recommendation to impose a sugar tax or excise duties on sugar sweetened beverages at the manufacturing stage.
“This will have the intended result of manufacturers taking initiative and being incentivized to reduce the sugar content in their products to avoid being taxed.”
Having said that, Azrul also mentioned that a sugar tax alone will not solve the obesity crisis.
“The revenue collected by the imposed tax should go directly to funding public health programs designed to deal with NCDs such as diabetes and cancer. Earmarking this revenue for this purpose would help strengthen the effectiveness and sustainability of current health literacy and NCD prevention programs, particularly as there has been a reduction in the allocation for health education.”
Bigger Allocation Means Better Healthcare
Azrul explained that the increase of allocation for the supply of drugs, consumables, vaccines and reagents is certainly good news for patients. “In the past, insufficient funds have resulted in shortages of essential drugs needed to treat diseases, particularly NCDs such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.”
“These shortages affected those most vulnerable such as senior citizens, pensioners, and these in the B40 and M40 households who can afford no other choice and depend solely on public healthcare for treatment,” he elaborated.
2019 Budget had also announced a nationwide health screening pilot program aimed at almost a million individuals aged 50 and above in B40 households, as well as the different screening initiatives targeted to women.
“These initiatives are certainly welcomed, but will face significant known challenges, particularly linking individuals to diagnosis and treatment.” “There must be investment in interventions which address this problem,” warned Azrul.