Monday, December 6, 2010

NST: MMA: Fees regulated by Health Ministry... By Masami Mustaza

MMA: Fees regulated by Health Ministry

NST, 2010/12/05
By Masami Mustaza

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has come to the defence of private doctors following the statement by director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican that healthcare should not be equated with a business.
Dr Ismail, in yesterday's New Sunday Times front-page report, also said that private hospitals and doctors had to be responsible when charging patients for services rendered.

MMA president Dr David Quek said the rising costs of healthcare shouldn't be blamed on doctors' professional fees, which are strictly regulated by the Health Ministry.

"The fees have been frozen for the past eight to 10 years and though there have been some disputes over the fees charged (possibly less than one per cent of all fees charged), these disputes have almost always been worked out by third party payers and/or the Health Ministry."

He said these fees had been in place since 2000 when the MMA prepared the fee schedule first as a guide (then as its 4th MMA fees schedule, published in 2002).

Dr Quek said the rise in healthcare charges, especially in private hospitals, was because there was no mechanism to regulate them. Ownership of major private hospitals by government-linked companies was also a factor.

He said that in private hospitals, most doctors used branded rather than generic drugs, mostly because patients expected a greater surety that the drugs would work fast and there was less margin for error.

"As the MMA fully understands the constraints of healthcare costs and how they can affect the financial security of Malaysians, we urge the government to establish a mechanism to ensure that children and the elderly have some form of subsidised care (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIPS, etc).

"We also urge employers to do their duty to ensure that their employees are fully covered for major illnesses."

Dr Ismail had called for the private healthcare sector to abide by the code of professional conduct and impose reasonable charges following public complaints over charges by private hospitals, which were highlighted by the media recently.

He said his ministry would hold a follow-up meeting to get a better understanding of the charges imposed on patients and the unhappiness expressed by doctors over what they perceived as interference in their practice.

"We would like all private healthcare providers to comply with the Fee Schedule and all requirements stipulated under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act 1998 (Act 586) and its regulations.

"The doctors' professional fees are being reviewed and the new rates are expected to be further deliberated on by the middle of next year," the report quoted him as saying.

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