Household Catastrophic Health Expenditure from Oral Potentially Malignant Disorders and Oral Cancer in Public Healthcare of Malaysia

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Discipline of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Gelugor, Penang, Malaysia.

2 Institute for Health Systems Research, National Institute of Health, Ministry of Health, Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia.

3 Institutional Planning and Strategic Center, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Gelugor, Penang, Malaysia.

4 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah, Ministry of Health, Klang, Selangor Malaysia.

5 Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Department, Hospital Umum Sarawak, Ministry of Health, Kuching, Sarawak Malaysia.

6 Samarahan Divisional Dental Office, Sarawak State Health Department, Ministry of Health, Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia.

7 Digital Health Research Unit, Cancer Research Malaysia, Subang Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.

8 Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


Objective: Oral cancer causes a significant disease burden and financial distress, especially among disadvantaged groups. While Malaysia has achieved universal health coverage via its highly subsidized public healthcare, patient and family expenditure for treatment of oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMD) and oral cancer remains a concern in the equitability of care. This study thus aims to estimate household out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures and the extent of catastrophic healthcare expenditure (CHE) while identifying its predictors. Methods: This three-part study consists of a cross-sectional survey to collect sociodemographic and health utilization data of patients, a retrospective medical record abstraction to identify resources consumed, and cost modeling to simulate expenditures in two tertiary public hospitals. Loss of productivity was calculated based on absenteeism related to disease management in the hospital. OOP payments for transport, care in public healthcare facilities, and other healthcare expenditures were tallied. A CHE was defined as OOP spendings of more than 10% from total annual household income. Multivariable logistic regression was further applied to identify the association between sociodemographic factors and the incidence of CHE. Results: A total of 52 patients with OPMD and 52 with oral cancer were surveyed and medical records were abstracted. A Kruskal-Wallis test showed a statistically significant difference in OOP share over household income between OPMD, early- and late-stage cancer, χ2(2)=51.05, p<0.001, with the mean percentage of 9%, 22%, and 65% respectively. This study found that the prevalence of CHE in the first year of diagnosis was 86.5% for oral cancer and 19.2% for OPMD. Indian ethnicity (OR=6.24, p=0.046) and monthly income group ‘less than USD 2,722’ (OR=14.32, p=0.023) were shown as significant predictors for CHE. Conclusions: Our study demonstrated the provision of subsidies may not be adequate to shield the more vulnerable group from CHE when they are diagnosed with OPMD and oral cancer.


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