Healthcare in Malaysia

Updated 2022-05-21 19:37

If you are moving to Malaysia alone or with your family, you will be happy to learn that this country has one of the best healthcare systems in Southeast Asia. Since one can never be safe from a little health trouble, it is preferable to be ready in case of a problem. Likewise, if you already have medical conditions that require monitoring, or if you are reaching retirement age and need to focus on your health, in Malaysia, you will be in the hands of seasoned professionals.

The healthcare system in Malaysia is renowned for being world-class, so much so that the medical tourism sector is growing in the country. The presence of numerous medical schools is irrefutable proof that Malaysia strives to provide quality medical care, not only to its citizens but also to tourists and expatriates.

Some of Asia's best-trained doctors (many of whom were trained overseas before returning to work in their home countries) are in Malaysia. Most Malaysian healthcare professionals also speak very good English, as well as other foreign languages ​​depending on where they studied. This is a great relief for many expats living in Malaysia, as no one wants translation issues to frustrate a diagnosis or treatment.

Malaysian healthcare may not be free or cheap for foreigners, but it is still significantly cheaper than private healthcare in Western countries. Procedures, including the initial consultation, MRI, surgical operations and a private room, can cost nine times less than similar procedures in the United States. Access to healthcare is therefore an asset for those who live in or visit the country, and for those who are especially visiting the country for health reasons.

However, there is a clear disparity in terms of access to healthcare depending on the region in Malaysia. If the large urban centres, the metropolises, and their outskirts are generally entitled to health care at the international level, this is far from being the case in the countryside and remote areas.

The health system

The healthcare system in Malaysia is divided into two highly developed sectors: a public sector run and funded by the government, and a thriving private sector, which has grown significantly over the past quarter-century. The public sector benefits almost 65% of the population, but only 45% of all registered doctors, and even fewer specialists, practice in the public sector. Most doctors, on the other hand, are generally required to complete three years of service in the public sector to ensure adequate coverage of the population.

Public health care is paid for by Malaysian citizens through general income tax. As a result, patients only have to pay a nominal fee when they visit public facilities, which are already heavily subsidized. The symbolic sum, on the other hand, is only applicable to Malaysian nationals, and the government does not have a reciprocal health policy with other countries. If foreigners can access public health care, they will have to pay additional costs. However, a large proportion of Malaysians generally consider government facilities to be theirs alone, so it may be inappropriate for expats to visit a government hospital for anything other than a medical emergency. In addition, the lack of staff in public establishments causes often very long waiting times. If you absolutely must go to a public facility, you can find a list of medical fees for foreigners in public hospitals on the website of the Ministry of Health in Malaysia. The Malaysian government seems to be very committed to providing access to high-quality healthcare to everyone in Malaysia, through clinics and hospitals across the country. However, the best option for expatriates in Malaysia remains private clinics. If you are traveling to remote rural areas, keep in mind that there is always a shortage of quality health centers in remote parts of the country. On the other hand, in cities, public and private hospitals in Malaysia have high standards and are equipped with the latest medical equipment.

Public health care may be the cheapest option at first glance, but foreigners seeking treatment in public facilities must pay additional fees. In the end, it doesn't make a big difference, especially if you are covered by health insurance, which should allow you to access quality private care in Malaysia at low cost. In addition, as Malaysia has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, many public hospitals in the country have been or are still being overwhelmed by a large number of patients infected with the virus.

Private sector options have their advantages, such as faster services due to more doctors attracted by higher salaries and better working conditions. But there is little difference between the quality of staff or equipment between the two sectors, apart from the slower treatment due to a lack of staff in public hospitals and the higher economic means available in private clinics. Most of these private establishments offer very high-quality care, which is why Malaysia has become a sought-after medical destination in the entire Southeast Asian region in recent years.

There is a very comprehensive range of healthcare services in Malaysia. Both Western and Eastern medicine are available at many health facilities, which means that acupuncture, along with other traditional practices, are as freely available as prescription drugs. This is another plus for open-minded foreigners who appreciate alternative treatments. Many Malaysians are also very attached to traditional medical practices, especially older people and rural residents. Many of them prefer to call on a healer, herbalist, or acupuncturist rather than seek treatment at the hospital, especially if they suffer from minor ailments.


In the event of a health emergency in Malaysia, it is important to note that some areas are less well-served by ambulance services. The most urbanized regions, such as Kuala Lumpur and its outskirts, have an efficient and rather fast ambulance service, but this is not the case in the smaller towns, countryside, and remote areas. It is advisable to have at hand, the number of a taxi ready to take you quickly to the nearest health center in the event of a problem. You can also consider remembering the number of a private health facility that provides reliable ambulance service.

The emergency number in Malaysia is 999. Online operators are generally able to speak basic English and respond relatively quickly to caller inquiries. Note again, some areas may not be served by ambulances, especially if the road is bad or if those areas are remote.

See our Directory of Services in Malaysia for more information on local healthcare services. We also offer you a list of doctors in Kuala Lumpur.

Medical treatments

If you are prescribed treatment in a hospital, you will receive your prescription and medication as soon as you pay for your consultation and tests. Most hospitals in Malaysia tend to have a checkout system, similar to that found in shops: after queuing, you walk to a window where you present your details and proceed to payment.

Medication is generally given in plastic pouches in the correct dose, with details written on a label. The instruction leaflet and the original packaging are not included, so make sure you understand the instructions and ask about any side effects before you go. Expats are advised to be vigilant with prescription drugs, as there have been problems with over-prescribing and the sale of counterfeit drugs. These incidents are rare, but it is worth staying alert and asking questions.


Pharmacies can be found all over Malaysia, but only some of them provide medicines in stock. Sometimes be prepared to go to several pharmacies to find what you need.

Health insurance in Malaysia

Thanks to the boom in the medical tourism market, more modern private hospitals and clinics have opened in Malaysia. As it is generally accepted that public health care is only available to Malaysian citizens, authorities expect expatriates or foreign visitors to be covered by health insurance for the duration of their stay in the country.

Even if private insurance is considerably higher than what Malaysians pay, the cost of health insurance (which should cover common illnesses, medical consultations, hospital fees and prescription drugs) and consultations in private clinics is much lower than in Western countries. A normal private consultation should cost around 125 RM (or more, depending on the health problem), while a bed in a private clinic will cost you more than 200 RM per day.

The Foreign Workers Hospitalization and Surgical Insurance Plan (SKHPPA) is a mandatory scheme that covers the hospitalization costs of foreign workers. Employers are required to pay an annual premium for each of their foreign workers. Thus, in case of emergency, they will be allowed to enter public hospitals in Malaysia and receive a stipend of up to RM20,000 per year.

However, if you are moving to Malaysia on an expatriate contract, it is important to request that health insurance for you and your family members be included in your employment contract. You may also need additional health insurance for better coverage. A plan with flexible options should be chosen, taking into account the increase in medical costs with age.

It is important to have health insurance that guarantees easy admission to many hospitals. Hereafter are the world leaders in health insurance:

Do not hesitate to contact the insurer of your choice according to your needs. You can also get a free quote on our Expat Health Insurance in Malaysia page.

Also, keep in mind that private clinics and hospitals in Malaysia require payment in advance, and only the amount stipulated in your insurance contract will be reimbursed.

Useful links:

Malaysian Ministry of Health

Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia

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