Malaysia is an upper-middle income country with a tax-based health financing system. Health care is relatively affordable, and safety nets are provided for the needy. The objectives of this study were to determine the out-of-pocket health spending, proportion of catastrophic health spending (out-of-pocket spending >40% of non-food expenditure), economic hardship and financial coping strategies among patients with ischaemic heart disease (IHD) in Malaysia under the present health financing system.
A cross-sectional study was conducted at the National Heart Institute of Malaysia involving 503 patients who were hospitalized during the year prior to the survey.
The mean annual out-of-pocket health spending for IHD was MYR3045 (at the time US$761). Almost 16% (79/503) suffered from catastrophic health spending (out-of-pocket health spending ≥40% of household non-food expenditures), 29.2% (147/503) were unable to pay for medical bills, 25.0% (126/503) withdrew savings to help meet living expenses, 16.5% (83/503) reduced their monthly food consumption, 12.5% (63/503) were unable to pay utility bills and 9.0% (45/503) borrowed money to help meet living expenses.
Overall, the economic impact of IHD on patients in Malaysia was considerable and the prospect of economic hardship likely to persist over the years due to the long-standing nature of IHD. The findings highlight the need to evaluate the present health financing system in Malaysia and to expand its safety net coverage for vulnerable patients.