In the Malaysian cities, especially in its capital Kuala Lumpur, health care is world class. But what if you live outside of the larger cities?
Let's take a closer look at Malaysia's healthcare system and how it applies to you, the expat retiree.
Like many places in the world, Malaysia is feeling the effects of an aging population coupled with medical advances to prolong life. This combination is putting a strain on both physical and financial resources.
Doctors trained in Malaysia must commit to practicing medicine there for a period of up to 4 years. Training overseas which is paid for by Malaysia will also require home service.
While promising to make medical care available in rural areas within a 5 km radius, it’s difficult to provide doctors and nurses here without financial incentive or other forms such as free housing. Most young professionals want to live and work in the city, with its services and entertainment.
The country runs a universal public health system which is heavily subsidized and a private system runs alongside it. The care in the rural public system is often basic, with specialists available if required.
In cities such as KL, however, healthcare is world class. The government actually is an investor in many private facilities and they are reputed to be top notch as well.
Money is being spent on refurbishing existing hospitals and performing upgrades to plant and equipment. Health care is very important to Malaysians and a large percentage of budget is spent on it.
Approximately 45% of healthcare costs are paid directly by the citizens of Malaysia. Current birth mortality rate is low, comparable to the US and Europe. Life expectancy is an average age of 74. The country is also expanding its services as a medical tourism destination.
Public healthcare is available to expats in Malaysia and is very inexpensive. A visit to a general practitioner will cost about $5 USD and treatment by a specialist will cost about $30 USD. Nevertheless, many expats prefer private care because treatment is faster, (no long waiting times) and more efficient.
Free health care, other than emergency treatment, is restricted to Malaysian citizens. As a foreign resident, you’ll have to either pay yourself, or purchase local or international health insurance. Both types of insurance have pros and cons, and both require careful analysis (more than we can cover here!).
As a general rule you can expect local insurance plans to be far cheaper, and often include life, health and retirement plans all in one. Pay attention to exclusions, renewable clauses and deductibles. The costs are regulated by the Bank Negara and closely monitored.
If you are working as an expat in Malaysia then your employer must provide an insurance plan for you. Otherwise you need to purchase your own through an insurance broker.
BrokerFish is a highly useful comparison site. Simply enter your age and the country, and you’ll get a list of insurers, with a variety of coverages, and the approximate cost in USD.
The best hospitals in the country are in Kuala Lumpur, which has also become a world class medical tourism destination. Check out this article on ExpatGo for a listing of the ten best Malaysian hospitals, with photos and a short description.
Another great resource to find and compare private hospitals throughout Malaysia (not just in KL) is the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia. Their web site features many private hospitals in Malaysia, listed by state, complete with contact details and number of beds.
Rates for a single room in a private hospital start at RM220 per day ($55). If you are prepared to share your room with three other patients, you'll pay as low as RM95 ($24).
Pharmaceutical availability is high, with well-stocked pharmacies in most malls. Prices are reasonable and filling of scripts is quick. Some drugs don’t require subscriptions whereas they might at home, and conversely others that don’t at home, do here.
Excellent healthcare, including dental, auditory and vision, is readily available in Malaysia, just not in every part of the country.
If quick access to the best healthcare in Malaysia is important for you, then you should consider living in or close to Kuala Lumpur.
Your next best choice would be other major cities like George Town, Shah Alam or Johor Bahru. There you’ll find many private clinics and hospitals with well trained specialists.