12 February 2020
Press statement by MCA Deputy President Dato' Dr. Mah Hang Soon
MYSALAM’S NEW TERMS WELCOME, BUT COULD BE BETTER: INCREASE AGE LIMIT
MCA notes the recent announcement by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that the scope of eligibility for mySalam recipients is to be widened. On the surface, mySalam, as with any social health schemes, is undeniably a good thing. The scheme basically provides a one-off payment of RM8,000 for members of the bottom 40 (B40) income group who have been diagnosed with any of the critical illnesses under the scheme.
Although the new terms announced are generous, and allows members of the middle class 40 (M40) income group to register for mySalam as well, and those eligible will get RM4,000 cash if diagnosed with a critical illness (as opposed to the B40’s RM 8,000), MCA notes with worry that the age limit has not been expanded.
The age limit is one of mySalam’s major drawbacks. In order to qualify, you would have to be between the ages of 18 and 55. As most people in the healthcare industry would point out, the most vulnerable demographic groups in Malaysia have a higher risk as we age. The average life expectancy for Malaysian men and women are 73.2 years and 77.6 years respectively. So what happens if a member of the B40 aged 55 years and above falls sick?
This is not the first time the MCA is calling for increased scrutiny on the shadowy mySalam scheme.
In Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s February 11 announcement, among other new expansions in its new terms, mySalam also increased the age of eligibility from 55 to 65 for its Cost of Living Aid (BSH) recipients. However, it seems strange that despite this, the main scheme’s age limit has not been raised in tandem, and still remains at 55 for both B40 and M40 applicants.
To make matters worse, both the one-off payment as well as BSH still do not apply to those below the age of 18, which makes it a problem given the high number of underage workers and part-time labourers in Malaysia.
Aside from the problem of the age limit, there is also the question of last year’s balance. MySalam began operations early last year with a budget of RM2 billion. The scheme received RM400 million from the government but only paid out RM13.7 million by the close of 2019. What happened to the balance amount (RM400 million – RM13.7 million = RM386.3 million)? Was it carried forward to 2020?
If the balance was carried forward to this year’s allocation, then perhaps this could explain why Great Eastern suddenly became so generous by expanding the terms of the scheme, without any help from Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng at all. Receiving RM400 million from the government annually, but only paying out RM13.7 million shows poor management in the first place.
Let us remind the government that the mySalam scheme was actually a trade-off in return for allowing the managers and funders of the scheme, Singapore’s Great Eastern, to operate in Malaysia without a need to obey the 30% minimum local shareholding threshold as required by Bank Negara rules. Therefore, the Malaysian government should not be coy when asking them to provide more help for the rakyat.
Dato' Dr. Mah Hang Soon
MCA Deputy President