Malaysia’s medical tourism eyes S’pore market

Jun Burgos
Global Nation

Industry players in Malaysia’s medical tourism are undertaking a variety of measures to welcome the expected surge of Singaporeans seeking medical treatment and therapies there.

This, as Singapore through Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, started implementing this month of March the island city-state’s “elective hospitalization overseas option” for members of its healthcare program bannered by Medisave, touted as one of the best and most well-funded healthcare programs in the world.

Medisave, introduced in April 1984, is Singapore’s mandated national medical savings scheme which enables individuals to put aside part (6.5 to 9 percent, depending on age group) of their monthly income into personal Medisave accounts used to pay personal or immediate family’s hospitalization, day surgery (one-day surgical operations), and certain outpatient expenses.

Medisave currently has a total standing fund of 42 billion Singapore dollars (SD), equivalent to some 30 billion US dollars, and counts about 2.9 million account holders, in which each average member has SD14,900 accumulated savings.

Previously, Singaporeans, permanent residents, and their immediate families could only use their Medisave in local hospitals and for emergency hospitalization abroad. But starting this month, it is applicable for use in hospitalization and day surgeries in 12 selected hospitals in Malaysia.

Singaporeans will be able to save on their medical bills by up to 50 percent if they choose to have their medical treatment in Malaysia, according to experts, noting that “a heart by-pass which costs USD18,000 in Singapore only costs USD9,000 in Malaysia, while angioplasty, pediatric cardiology, as well as other specialized medical services, could cost only half the price as those in some Singapore hospitals.”

Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the government decided to expand the use of Medisave to cover elective overseas hospitalization following requests from many Singaporeans themselves.

“The scheme gives Singaporeans more choices especially for those who want to seek cheaper but good quality treatment from private hospitals overseas,” he said, adding that, “the old policy restricts the people who travel and work in Malaysia from using their Medisave and was thus a strain on their pockets.”

“It’s one of those things that you allow because this is a patient’s Medisave account and it opens up options for them,” the minister further explained.

Malaysian hospital officials were quick to emphasize that their medical services, including modern treatment procedures in neurosurgery, orthopedics, and urology are comparable to, if not even better than, those in some hospitals in Singapore as well as in other countries, noting that at least 10 percent of their medical tourism clients comprised of Singaporeans even before the introduction of the elective overseas hospitalization.

One hospital has likewise announced its “scheduled signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Australia’s Macquirie Neurosurgery to enable renowned surgeon, Dr Micheal Morgan, to work exclusively with it to provide high-end neurosurgical procedures.”

Already, the expanded Medisave service is gaining attraction as reports revealed a surge of inquiries from among Singaporeans regarding details of overseas medical treatment.

The development likewise serves as an added boost to Malaysia’s medical tourism, as this country’s hospitals particularly in Kuala Lumpur have thus initiated partnering with tour operators and airline companies for offering of efficient, hassle-free, and overall “seamless travels” between the two countries, up to a point of arranging ambulances’ straight travels between hospitals and airports.

Hospital officials likewise assured Malaysians that the influx of Singaporean patients would not drive up prices of medical services and pose multi-tier quality, declaring, “It is, and will remain, a one-tier policy, meaning: one price and one, same quality for anybody who wants medical treatment in a Malaysian hospital, whether patients are Malaysians or foreigners.”

Malaysia’s medical tourism industry players said they have indeed been eyeing big markets not only from Singapore but also from the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, and the Middle East.

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