The disabled hope for health insurance aid

MIRI: Handicapped folks in Sarawak are seeking free health insurance coverage from the Federal Budget 2019 in view of increasing health woes and rising cost of medical treatment for critical illness.

These handicapped folks, who are mostly poor and categorised as Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) in Sarawak, are struggling to survive daily and they still need federal aid.

They are desperately hoping for a “kinder” Budget 2019 even though Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has hinted that it would be a “painful” budget.

Blind couple Philip Asui and wife Diana said it was high time people like them are accorded free health insurance coverage.

“We OKUs suffer a lot of illnesses and serious health complications due to our physical disabilities, especially in our old age.

There are many aged blind people suffering from heart ailments, muscle degeneration, bone fractures among other health issues.

“While the government hospitals give subsidised treatments to OKUs, their facilities are limited.

“It will be good if the Health Ministry or Welfare Ministry give OKU’s insurance coverage to enable us to get private treatment, especially for critical health cases that require specialists treatment,” Asui said when interviewed.

Asui and Diana are blind masseurs who have a five-year-old daughter to care for.

Asui said anxiety is also brewing among the poorer sections of the community that the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) will be stopped.

“Lower-income earners and poverty-stricken folks from both urban and rural areas in Sarawak hope the new Federal Government will continue to channel the much-needed BR1M welfare assistances to the needy in Sarawak,” he stressed.

Asui said they heard the announcement over the news that this budget may be tough.

“This is sad news. We blind folks are worried. We still need BR1M as it has helped us a lot every year,” said Asui.

Asui and Diana have to pay RM800 per month in rental, plus a few hundred ringgit more for electricity, water, massage oil and maintenance.

The BR1M that Asui received helped them a lot over the past few years, Asui stressed.

The couple each receives RM350 from the state Welfare Department.

Both of them barely sustain themselves through their struggle doing body and foot massage.

“We hope that food aid will be continued too. We really need the financial and material aid,” he added.

Wheelchair-bound grandmother Wong Bee Kim, 61, is also one of thousands considered as urban poor in Miri.

She was formerly from a squatter colony that had been resettled to the Tudan Squatter Resettlement Scheme.

She is sickly, a single-mother of two daughters and she has seven grandchildren; all of them are staying with her in her rented house.

Her two daughters are also single mothers since their husbands abandoned them.

Wong is getting RM350 monthly aid from the Sarawak Social Welfare Department.

“Apart from this RM350 I also got BR1M of RM1,200 in two payments last year.

My two daughters are washing dishes while my grandchildren are schooling. The welfare aid and BR1M is enough just to survive,” she said.

In Miri, there are thousands of urban poor.

Rural folks are also urging for continuation of the BR1M.

“We want BR1M to continue. It is a good thing done by the previous government. We in rural areas need all these assistance from the state and Federal Government,” said Kuala Tutoh farmer Patrick Ngau.

He urged the Federal Cabinet to sustain BR1M and other federal aids to Sarawak.