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Hong Kong Government Continues Healthcare Reform Consultation

Posted on Oct 26, 2010 by Sergio Ulloa ()

In the latest development of the Hong Kong Healthcare Reform saga, the Hong Kong government has released a new document, entitled 'My Health My Choice' for a second round of public consultation within the city. The initial proposals for reform of the Hong Kong healthcare system started in late 2008. The proposals identified the need for the reform to better manage emerging healthcare costs stemming from an increase in the size of the ageing population in the city. The latest developments see the Hong Kong government publish documents for the second round of public consultation on the reform proposals under the banner of "The Voluntary Health Protection Scheme". The public consultation process is planned to be completed over a three month period. The primary conclusion from the first round of public consultation was the lack of enthusiasm for a mandatory private insurance scheme, with a voluntary health protection scheme being the preferred alternative, coupled with a general strengthening of the healthcare system and facilities in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government has said it will increase state funding for healthcare in the country by approximately HK$ 3.90 billion (US$ 500 million) dollars per year raising planned total contributions to HK$ 36.9 billion (US$ 4.7 billion) in 2010-11; this compares with base expenditure of HK$ 30.5 billion (US$ 3.9 billion) in 2007-08. The government has also stated that there is a further HK$ 5 billion (US$ 650 million) available for a variety of healthcare initiatives under the reform process. As part of the reform initiative, projects include the launching of public-private partnership schemes, the sharing of health records and the expansion of the drug formulary scheme within a public healthcare safety net; adoption of the reform proposals would see implementation in the fiscal year 2013-2014. The government would also invest in local healthcare infrastructure and equipment, and aim to strengthen the safety network, with a total investment commitment exceeding HK$ 50 billion (US$ 6.5 billion) over a 25 year period. The fundamental focus of the proposed healthcare reform is improved access to health services for all Hong Kong citizens, with increased protection under private insurance being able to release capacity in the public sector. The latest reform proposals reflect an agreement between the government and insurance companies to phase the cut-over from public to private healthcare for those citizens with pre-existing medical conditions over a three year period - 0 percent indemnity year 1, 25 per cent year 2, 50 per cent year 3, with full insurance cover from year 4 onwards. The reform is based on individual participation in the Hong Kong Health Protection Scheme involving additional voluntary contributions to private insurance schemes, with guaranteed renewable policies and access to medical packages for treatment in quality private medical facilities in Hong Kong. The Health Protection Scheme in Hong Kong is designed to create improvements in access to private healthcare, to bear-down on doctors fees and to generate more choice for patients. The Health Protection Scheme proposed for implementation will subsidize costs to help, in particular, the most at risk patients - the 65 plus age group, those individuals with pre-existing conditions, and incentivise the younger element of Hong Kong's society - with caps on the co-payments for treatments necessary. The new government proposals have been developed following criticism for the lack of clarity in certain areas provided by previous consultation documents. While there are some reservations about the ability of the new proposals to deliver the desired level of change from public to private sector healthcare, there is optimism that the proposals now included under 'My Health, My Choice' will meet with a positive response from Hong Kong citizens and the medical and insurance professions. The spot light has been placed on the provision of long term access to healthcare services for the growing population of Hong Kong. The voluntary, incentivised nature of the proposed scheme for greater use of privately funded healthcare is structured to achieve this objective. The results of the consultation process should be known by early 2011.
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