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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Have DRG system to make healthcare affordable, says ex-deputy minister

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PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya needs to look into implementing a diagnosis-related group (DRG) system to promote more affordable healthcare in the country, former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has suggested.

A DRG is a patient classification system that standardises the costs for certain groups of patients, according to their ailments and encourages cost containment initiatives. It covers charges for treatment of a patient from the time of admission until discharge.

Lee told FMT that Malaysia should look into the DRG system which has already been implemented in Indonesia.

Currently, he said, the country had not embarked on conducting a proper cost-benefit analysis or CBA, which could help boost public-private partnerships in the health sector.

“As we have not set up a single-payer system, there is no drive to do a CBA. Countries like the US use a single-payer system like Medicare or Medicaid, which are national health insurance programmes.

“If we intend to go towards a single-payer system, like national health financing or a national insurance scheme, then it must be done,” he said, adding that the DRG system in Indonesia was developed by a Malaysian, “but we have never used it”.

Lee was responding to a call by the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) for a CBA to be conducted after denying that its members overprice the treatment or overcharge their patients.

The association’s president, Dr Kuljit Singh, said a CBA would show that charges at private hospitals are not expensive.

Lee said a CBA would lead to a better public-private partnership and the costing structure, as well as the effectiveness and quality of services, should be looked into.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said the Covid-19 pandemic has forced Malaysia to look at managing healthcare differently.

More than ever, the think tank’s CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said there was a need for “stability, predictability, transparency and consultation with a common objective” to build a resilient and stronger healthcare system, one that comprises hospitals, medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industries.

“Successful public-private partnerships will translate to better and higher healthcare quality. This will benefit Malaysians as a whole,” Azrul said.

He also said it was vital to remember that while the nation’s healthcare system was composed of two-tiers – the public and private sectors – decisions in either would affect people as a whole.

The Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM), meanwhile, said that despite the denials by APHM, it had received complaints from the public on excessive charges.

“It is interesting to note the statement by the association that its members don’t overcharge when one private hospital was fined for profiteering when charging for face masks,” MCM president Darshan Singh Dhillon said, referring to a case last year.

He also dismissed Kuljit’s assertion that “the very high increase” in medical tourists was proof that the private healthcare sector offered value-for-money services.

He argued that those who travelled to Malaysia for medical treatment were likely to be well-off.

“Exchange rates may work in their favour,” he said.

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