South-East Asia Upper-middle-income countries

Public financing for universal health coverage in Malaysia

Chiu-Wan Ng, of the Julius Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-based Medicine in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Malaya, has written an assessment of Malaysia’s progress towards universal health coverage for GNHE.

You can read the full assessment here.

The authors’ main conclusions are:

  • The claim that Malaysia has achieved universal health coverage appears to be supported by the findings of the assessment of the country’s health system.
  • Financing of health care has a progressive distribution and average household out-of-pocket payments are relatively small, especially for poorer households. Overall, the population enjoys high levels of financial risk protection and the use of public health care services is equitably distributed.
  • The fact that the poor are spared a high burden of out-of-pocket payments can be partially attributed to the extensive network of public health facilities: this provides a wide range of very cheap health care services to those in need. Direct household out-of-pocket health payments in Malaysia are in fact almost exclusively for the purchase of private care. Out-of-pocket payment distributions favouring richer households indicate that, in general, private care is mainly purchased and consumed by the rich, a finding which should not be surprising since these households are more likely to be able to afford such care.
  • Increasing public demand for better quality care, as well as changing demographics and disease burdens, are putting the Malaysian public health system under tremendous strain. Major health reforms are being discussed within government although very few details have been released to the public. It is likely that a future system would involve social health insurance, a single purchaser and both public and private provision.

Ng C-W. 2015. Universal health coverage assessment: Malaysia. Global Network for Health Equity (GNHE). Available at: