KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government has announced a free national health insurance scheme for the low income, at an initial cost of RM2 billion (US$481 million).
In a statement on Friday (Dec 28), Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the B40 (Bottom 40 per cent) National Protection Scheme, which will begin on Jan 1, will provide coverage against 36 critical illnesses. The payouts will be up to RM8,000 over a period which will be announced in due course.
Under the scheme, there will also be income replacement payments of RM50 per day for up to 14 days, or RM700 a year for hospitalisation.
“This scheme is a significant step taken by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Government to establish a comprehensive social safety net from the aspect of inclusive health insurance and takaful (syariah compliant) coverage for low-income groups for free,” said the finance minister.
He added that the insurance scheme, which is the first of its kind in Malaysia, is guided by the PH manifesto to “improve access to much-needed health services, lighten the cost of living burden and improve the people’s wellbeing”.
Targeted recipients between the ages of 18 and 55 will be covered for a period of five years. More than four million households are expected to benefit from the scheme.
RISING COST OF LIVING
The PH government has announced a slew of measures this week to help ease the burden of rising living costs.
On Wednesday, Lim said the government will resume cash handouts to low income families next month, with the first tranche of the Cost of Living Aid - worth RM300 per household - to be paid on Jan 28.
He announced on Thursday that current toll charges for 21 highways will be maintained next year.
The government will have to fork out almost RM1 billion in compensation payments to the relevant highway toll concessionaires, who were scheduled to increase the toll fees in 2019.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had previously estimated the country's national debt at RM1 trillion, blaming the ballooning debt on abuses by the previous government led by Najib Razak.