KUALA LUMPUR: Consumer groups are calling on Bank Negara to include them in negotiations related to easing the expenses of those who are forced to go to private hospitals due to the pandemic.

Malaysian Muslim Consumer Association lead activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said consumer associations should be given a seat at the table during these discussions.

“This is due diligence. We need to ensure people’s interests are protected and there are no loopholes for others to manoeuvre the discussion against this spirit.

“We can’t, for instance, have the cost for private hospitalisation for Covid-19 or otherwise covered in exchange for higher premiums,” he said, adding that the association had received lots of insurance cases recently.

He said opening up discussions to associations such as theirs would enable people to gauge whether the terms and conditions were impressed on the insurance providers.

“The overarching fact is that Malaysia is facing an emergency and everyone has to tackle it together.

“And this means that all stakeholders, be they the government, private hospitals or patients, must absorb the costs together, equitably.”

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president Datuk Dr Marimuthu Nadason agreed with Nadzim.

“The government is honour-bound to ensure that the people’s interests are protected. What is the emergency for, if not?”

He said the government had to ensure that there were no hikes in premiums if the discussions tilted in consumers’ favour and insurance companies were compelled to cover the hospitalisation of those with Covid-19.

The Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) and Fomca earlier called on Bank Negara to compel insurance companies to revise their policies and cover the treatment cost of Covid-19 patients.

APHM president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said this was the most decent solution in light of the state of emergency, which compelled them to take in Covid-19 patients under government orders.

Rejecting patients would entail a fine of RM5 million or jail time.

Consumers Association of Penang president Mohideen Abdul Kader, however, disagreed with private hospitals passing the cost of treating Covid-19 patients to insurance companies.

“They should not charge patients a single sen and take it as their social responsibility to help the country in its hour of need.”

He said that the government’s allocation of RM100 million for the purpose was sufficient.

Earlier, Life Insurance Association of Malaysia, General Insurance Association of Malaysia and Malaysian Takaful Association said they were working with the ministry and Bank Negara to explore ways to ease some of the expenses of patients, whose conditions required them to be treated in private hospitals.

The associations, however, said pandemic-related risks were generally not covered under any insurance or takaful plans due to the difficulty in pricing for coverage relating to such an event that may occur once in a lifetime, with an incalculable impact and cost.

It, however, said a majority of life insurers and takaful operators provided supplementary benefits, such as daily hospital income, to be paid to policyholders or certificate holders.

Article by: New Straits Times