Motion of Thanks for the 2010-11 Policy Address (on Healthcare Reform)

Speech of the Hon KP Chan on healthcare policies on the motion of thanks for the Policy Address at the Legislative Council meeting on October 27, 2010 (Synopsis)

Healthcare Financing

•    Public response to the proposed Health Protection Scheme is positive but some people and critics may still have misunderstandings.  The Government should further explain the proposal.  I am convinced that people are willing to participate once they recognize benefits of the scheme.

•    The success of the Scheme depends on quadripartite supports.  Firstly, it needs government support.  The Government should promote and regulate the entire Scheme, and also provide financial support.  Under the current plan, the Government would allot HK$2- 2.5 billion a year from the sum of HK$50 billion earmarked for healthcare reform in support.  As the earmarked fund would last for 20 to 25 years only, its sustainability is a cause for concern.  Earlier, I raised this question with the Chief Executive but he merely replied that the Scheme was meant to be sustainable.  I ask the Government to reconsider the arrangement because sustainability is crucial to voluntary health insurance.

•    Secondly, it needs industry support.  There are 10 requirements for insurance companies in the proposed Scheme and even the Government admits that they are stringent.  The insurance industry is still supportive in principle but asks for equitable treatments when scheme details are announced.  Many critics say that the plan would only benefit insurance companies.  May I clarify here that this is an unfair comment because the insurance industry is just the administrator and its profit margin is merely 3 to 5 percent.

•    Thirdly, it needs professional support of private hospitals and doctors.  The Government and private hospitals have not reached any consensus on offering service packages or more transparent charging schedules.   As service charges vary among hospitals, the public would worry that payment from claim is inadequate to settle the medical bill.  Therefore, the proposed plan would hardly succeed if private hospital charges lack transparency.  Owing to limited competition, private hospitals lack incentive to offer service packages.  The Government should find ways to encourage competition among private hospitals that would lead to the introduction of service packages.   After launching of the plan, the Government should also step up regulation against malpractices and any surge in medical charges.

•    Fourthly, its needs public support.  Some members of the public probably do not fully understand the Scheme and need more persuasion.  Some say that the young and healthy would cross-subsidize the elder and unfit.  I do not agree.  Everybody will grow old and suffer from illness as time goes by.  Therefore, the question of cross-subsidy is fallacious.  I also ask the Government to reconsider offering tax incentives to those who purchase health insurance as incentive for the middle-class to participate.  Lastly, I call for active and open public discussions with a view to resolving technical issues and an early launch of the Health Protection Scheme.

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