Can you afford to fall sick in Malaysia?

Updated 23 Aug 2017 – By Caitlyn Ng


The cost of healthcare in Malaysia is no laughing matter as evidenced by Malaysia Health Insurance’s findings. There is an average of about 15% annual increase in the costs, which translates to a doubling in prices every six years.

Apart from saving up for your golden years post-retirement, you should be saving for a medical emergency too. You may be following the healthiest regimen, but an unexpected turn of events such as an accident or terminal illness can be enough to wipe out your entire life savings. The question is: should you choose public or private healthcare?

1) Treatments

Government medical institutions charge significantly less than that of their private counterparts; just take a look at the abridged table of fees below (you can view the comprehensive list here), courtesy of the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH):

*Assuming that the treatments chosen are all First Class.

Since public hospitals and clinics are overworked due to the unbalanced doctor-to-patient ratio, it usually leads to excessively long wait times for both diagnoses and treatments. According to the latest available data from The World Health Organisation (WHO), Malaysia has a ratio of 1.281:1000, which translates to about one doctor per population of 1,000.

Enter private hospitals, where they usually charge an arm and a leg for a reason: they have to keep up with global standards of providing the best care possible. As they continually improve in leaps and bounds, both in state-of-the-art equipment and highly-skilled experts, this has led to Malaysia ranking as one of the top destinations for medical treatments.

International Living, a magazine detailing the best places in the world to live, retire, travel and invest, says this is partly attributed to Malaysia having “some of the best-trained doctors in Asia – the majority of them were trained in the US, Australia or the UK. Other considerations to take into account are that there is little to no waiting time when you arrive.”

Well then, how much would it cost for you to be treated by one of the country’s top specialists in a short span of time? It’s no secret that the cost for excellent quality does not come cheap. Unfortunately, since most private hospitals do not disclose the prices on their respective websites, we decided to take readily available information on maternity prices for a simple comparison benchmark instead.

** Pricing sources: Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur, Assunta Hospital, Sunway Medical Centre, Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur (Bangsar), Columbia Asia Hospital Petaling Jaya.

2) Hospitalisation

Let’s move on to the next costliest part of falling gravely ill: having to be hospitalised for a few days, sometimes even longer than that. Apart from being under medical supervision, it’s important for the patient to have a quiet and comfortable place to rest for recuperation.

The price of a single room at a public hospital is undoubtedly much cheaper, but a patient would be getting nothing more than the bare basics. In a private hospital, it’s a different case altogether; rooms are tastefully designed to be as comfortable as possible, while some can even have the look and feel of a five-star hotel.

***Assuming that the type of room chosen is First Class.  

3) Outpatient treatment

For those who require treatment without admittance for overnight care, or follow-up treatment, there is the outpatient department. Here, people are examined and treated, then allowed to go back home. For those not in the know, government hospitals and clinics will only charge you RM1 for a myriad of services – occasionally, some cases are free of charge.

If you find that hard to believe, perhaps the words of Dr Alzamani Mohammad Idrose, an emergency physician at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, might convince you. “For RM1 that you pay, you typically get consultation, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, a blood test and medication, which would actually cost RM1,250. You pay RM1; we absorb RM1,249.”

While there are no official figures to be found from private hospitals on their outpatient treatments, we can safely assume that nothing beats the price of RM1!

To conclude

There is no denying that healthcare costs are a major financial concern but which can be alleviated with the presence of Malaysia’s public healthcare system in place. “Healthcare cost is not cheap but is heavily subsidised by the Government and Health Ministry," said the Ministry of Health’s director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

In addition, proper health insurance coverage (both medical and life, if possible) is highly encouraged.  Having a secure fund or comprehensive plan that has your back are just some of the ways to ensure that you and your loved ones have less to worry about in the event of an emergency.

It wouldn’t do for you to be shocked with a hefty medical bill post-care, like the case of this Singaporean girl and her late mother’s SGD1,018,469.29 (roughly RM3.19mil) bill; out of that total, SGD350,000 (roughly RM1.1mil) was for medications alone.

Neither would you want your loved ones to suffer the same fate as this Sarawakian family, who lost two of their children to the rabies virus outbreak in Sarawak. Sadly, because the victims’ parents were unable to afford the RM40 life-saving treatment, they succumbed to the deadly virus.

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