Malaysia health minister expects cheaper meds in hospitals

Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam.
The Star/ANN

IPOH - With the 8,630 types of medicine zero-rated under Goods and Services Tax (GST), the cost of medication in private hospitals and clinics should decrease, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said.

"The good news will create a great impact for patients seeking treatment in private hospitals.

"Among the controlled drugs in the list are those to treat cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure," he said after the ministry's training institution graduation ceremony at Kolej Sains Kesihatan Bersekutu Sultan Azlan Shah in Ulu Kinta here yesterday.

On the overall budget, Subramaniam said despite the lower allocation for the ministry compared with previous years, it would be a challenge to ensure that the funds are managed properly without compromising on the services rendered.

"We need to focus on efficiency and reduce wastage," he said.

The health budget allocated in Budget 2016 was RM23.03 billion (S$7.5 billion) or 8.6% of the total budget, RM269 million less than this year's allocation.

Teacher Kiranjit Kaur, 36, said she spent more than RM100 for medicine each time any of her daughters visited a doctor at a private hospital.

"With an additional list of medicines on the zero-rated list, I hope to save about 30% on the medical bill. With the haze, my eight-year-old daughter visits her paediatrician a few times a month," she said.

"It is definitely good news that more medicines are on the list."

Housewife J.N. Chan, 66, doesn't think that the move would help to reduce the medical bills of patients.

"In the past year or so, the overall cost of the medication for my diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol has gone up to about RM700 per month from RM500-plus.

"But I feel that it has little to do with GST.

"The price of medication, most of which are imported, has gone up drastically because of the continuous weakening of the ringgit," she said.

Salbiah Ahmad, 74, said she hoped the Government would consider removing GST imposed on supplements.

"I was diagnosed with first stage of liver cirrhosis last year at a private hospital and was required to take supplements to strengthen my liver.

"I easily spend about RM500 per month on the supplements, therefore it will be good if the supplements are part of the zero-rated list as well," she said.