Saturday, January 22, 2011
A coalition of 58 NGOs slam the government's move to make migrant workers pay for health scheme.
PETALING JAYA: Employers of migrant workers should be the ones contributing to the foreign workers’ hospitalisation and surgical insurance scheme instead of the workers.
“It is appalling that the Malaysian government is asking the 1.5 million migrant workers, and not their employers, to pay for insurance,” a coalition of 58 NGOs said in a press statement.
On Jan 7, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that migrant workers would be made to subscribe to the newly-launched insurance scheme as coverage for work-related injuries or death.
While employers of plantation workers and housemaids are required to pay for the insurance policies, other foreign employees must pay for it themselves.
Liow said that the government would not renew the permits of migrant workers if they did not subscribe to the insurance and settle their outstanding medical bills.
Spokespersons for the NGOs, Charles Hector and Pranom Somwong, said that no foreign workers should be made to pay for their medical treatment.
“These foreigners are required to get a clean bill of health before being given a work permit to be employed in Malaysia. Therefore, the employers should be paying for their medical treatement.
They poured scorn on Liow’s statement.
“The Workmen’s Compensation Regulations 1953 clearly states that public funds would be used to pay for workers’ medical expenses should they seek treatment at a public health facility.
“Since the minister was referring to government hospitals, what outstanding bills is he talking about?” they asked.
‘Liow is naïve’
The activists said the workmen’s regulations also needed a review as the amount stipulated for medical coverage for foreign workers was out of touch with current healthcare rates.
“The regulation caps employers’ contribution for surgery at RM300. However, operation charges can vary between RM50 and RM3,000 depending on the type of surgery.”
He also called Liow “naïve” for insisting that migrant workers produce their passports to the hospital authorities before seeking treatment.
“In most cases, employers or their agents illegally hold on to the passports. Sometimes, the passports are held by immigration authorities or other agencies,” said Hector.
The activists said it was only proper that the hospitals gave priority to the individual’s health instead of nitpicking on documentation and paperwork.
“Do not let the absence of a document and money be the cause of death or the loss of a limb of a migrant worker in Malaysia,” said Hector.
Among the 58 NGOs making the call were Aliran, Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association, Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Mekong Migration Network (MMN), Migrant Care of Indonesia, Migrant Health Association of Korea and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).
See also earlier post:-