The Star has reported that foreigners from 38 countries owe Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) a sum of RM7.87mil in unpaid medical bills since 2012.

In fact, RM3mil has been recorded in unpaid bills by foreigners for 2016 alone, making up a part of the RM50.5mil in unpaid medical bills at all government hospitals last year.

According to the country’s Health Ministry, the amount owed by foreign patients represented almost one-fifth of the total bills incurred by them at public hospitals.

HKL revealed that the top five foreign nationals who had consistently defaulted in settling the hospital bills from 2012 to 2016 were from Indonesia, followed by Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. However, some of the foreign patients also included those from countries such as Germany, Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Japan and the United States - although the figures were negligible.

In the report, HKL stated: “We try our best to collect and we also send a letter to the respective embassies to get the debts settled. But only 5% to 10% of the unpaid medical bills are collected."

HKL cited some of the reasons for non-payment being patients either not having any next of kin, not working, not self-employed or did not have an employer.

Other reasons included being homeless as a result of mental illness, lack of cooperation from the embassies, running away from the hospital, illnesses were not covered by insurance and the employers had abdicated responsibility.

ALSO READ: 20 illegal workers arrested in Sabah by Malaysia police

Meanwhile, the ministry mentioned that the RM50.5mil had prompted authorities to demand foreigners to pay a much higher deposit when seeking treatment at government hospitals.

In the report, secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Chen Chaw Min highlighted that 1.36 million foreign patients had visited government hospitals last year with a total treatment cost of RM269.89mil. Out of those figures, 23,595 could not pay off RM50.5mil.

On that note, he commented: “Most foreigners fail to pay because they do not have enough funds, while some simply refuse to pay.” “They mostly comprise undocumented workers who do not have medical insurance, which is compulsory for all legal foreign workers,” he added.

All registered foreign workers in Malaysia are enrolled in the Foreign Workers Insurance Scheme (SPIKPA). The premium for SPIKPA is RM120 per person annually where they are covered for up to RM20,000.

Photo / 123RF