Double taxing the public via 1 Care — Yow Hong Chieh
FEB 5 — A tax by any other name is still a tax. And that’s exactly what the 1 Care healthcare proposal is, if reports about the scheme are true.
Central to 1 Care is the National Health Financing Scheme (NHFS), a government insurance fund that both employees and businesses will have to pay 10 per cent of their monthly income to, similar to our Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF).
But unlike the EPF, it’s very likely we will not get our money back. So it’s basically a tax, plain and simple, however you try to dress it up.
I have no issues with progressive taxes, which is what the NHSF appears to be; those who can afford it will subsidise healthcare costs for those who can’t.
Given that only 10 per cent of the work force, or about one million, now pay for public goods enjoyed by all 28 million Malaysians via income tax, that seems par for the course.
But we already pay taxes, not only in the form of income tax but sin tax on booze and tobacco products, among others, to the government as payment for all public goods, including healthcare. Where’s the money going?
I don’t deny that healthcare costs may be spiralling upwards but it seems rich to propose a new levy on Malaysians when the government does not seem all that keen on tackling the leakages and illicit outflows, which are at an all-time high, by all independent accounts.
At the same time, Putrajaya seems bent on encouraging the poor dietary habits of the general population by increasing its sugar subsidy, which would only add to the burden on the healthcare system in years to come.
Malaysians already consume an average of 26 spoons of sugar daily and, as the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) has pointed out, excessive consumption of the sweet stuff has been linked to over 60 diseases, from cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, osteoporosis and kidney problems to asthma and allergies.
The prevalence of diabetes in Malaysia alone has jumped from below two per cent in 1960 to 14.9 per cent in 2006, or about 4.2 million patients. That’s 15 per cent of the total population, or almost one in seven persons.
CAP also pointed out that the federal government would save some RM567 million if it sells sugar at market price, due to lower healthcare costs in the long run, and I don’t doubt that they’re right in this case.
So if the government is sincere about preserving the health of Malaysians, it should get rid of the sugar subsidy, nix the 1 Care insurance scheme and find more efficient ways to employ the tax ringgit we have handed over to provide for fundamental public goods.
The very last thing it should be doing is double-taxing Malaysians just because it has failed to do its job properly.
* Yow Hong Chieh is a journalist with The Malaysian Insider
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.