Posted on Feb 22, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa
The much-anticipated public consultation on "Healthcare Finance Reform" to be launched on the second half of this year is starting to generate attention towards some of the main issues to be addressed, among which is the possibility of the Hong Kong Government implementing a company to provide medical insurance for cases where private insurers may not be able to provide a "reasonable cover" to policyholders.
Such a bold initiative is fueled by what the government perceives as the "low coverage" currently being provided by private insurance companies, which results in the insured person not being able to afford treatment in private hospitals. As a result of this, patients end up receiving the treatment they need in public sector hospitals.
Given that the products offered by some insurance companies exclude pre-existing and hereditary conditions, as well as mental and sexually transmitted diseases, an insured person in need of treatment has at the moment no other option but to seek treatment in public hospitals. This again, is perceived by the government as another way how the insurance companies are encouraging their policyholders to rely on the public healthcare sector.
The additional stress put on the public hospitals by patients already insured by private insurers is seen by the government as unfair. The insurance companies profit from the sale of insurance products that the policyholders cannot fully benefit from, ultimately transferring the cost to taxpayers.
One solution suggested by the government is that the insurance sector implements a compensation fund for the reimbursement of high-cost claims, to drive away potential liquidity problems from insurers.
Recently, the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers has agreed in principle to extend cover of pre-existing conditions and mental diseases. Further discussions with the government will be arranged to address the proposed standardisation of conditions and charges, counter-proposing also that the government subsidises directly these claims or sets a moratorium for claimants to receive full compensation after a pre-determined period.
Hong Kong residents in general will no doubt look forward to an improved healthcare system once the consensus on its reform is reached, and implementation of the changes needed are carried out by both government and insurance companies.
In order to put in perspective the above, you may refer to the articles: "Hong Kong Healthcare Reform; a worldwide issue
" and "Hong Kong Healthcare Reform Stuck in Debate