Response to Healthcare Reform Second Stage Public Consultation
7 January 2011
Food and Health Bureau
19/F Murray Building
Garden Road, Central
Healthcare Reform Second Stage Public Consultation
We are pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the above consultation and would like to fuly endorse the attached proposal made by the Healthcare Policy Forum. We would also like to make the following comments:
Voluntary health protection scheme (HPS) in the form of private healthcare insurance may not be a correct policy tool
Given the healthcare reform objectives we endorse, we fully support the Government's objectives to 1) ease the pressure on the public system and 2) enhance the long-term sustainability of Hong Kong's healthcare system. Nonetheless, given the available research evidence mentioned earlier, we do not agree that private healthcare insurance is a correct policy tool for achieving the two objectives above.
On the ground of justice, we also oppose using public money to subsidize the uptake of private insurance. The Government's proposal will only move our healthcare system in the direction of greater inequality in the access to healthcare, which goes against the fundamental value of equal access to healthcare of public healthcare systems in many advanced countries. We find subsidizing this greater inequality by public money unacceptable.
Notwithstanding our objections, we have no intention to call for an overhaul of HPS. We agree that the Government should take an active role in regulating the private insurance market and the private healthcare market for better consumer and patient protection. What we disagree with is adopting private insurance as a policy tool for reforming healthcare financing and using public money to support the uptake of private insurance.
The possible ways forward
We propose that HPS should be re-conceptualized as a consumer/patient protection policy rather than a healthcare financing reform policy.
As regards healthcare financing reform, given the Government's objectives of enhancing the long-term sustainability of Hong Kong's healthcare system and easing the pressure on the public healthcare system, we put forward the outline of two possible alternative supplementary funding schemes.
One innovative supplementary healthcare financing option is to use the $50 billion fiscal reserve to set up a public healthcare foundation for generating income. The income generated each year is then to be used to finance the public healthcare system.
Alternatively, part of the income generated can be saved up and re-invested into the foundation for generating additional income. This way, the foundation will be like a medical savings account of the society as a whole, which is also a way of coping with population ageing. Depending on the soundness of the Government's financial position and the level of financial reserves, more money can be earmarked for healthcare financing and put into the foundation in the future.
We hope the above are useful to you in formulating the healthcare policy.
George W H Cautherley
Reproduction of this paper is permitted with proper attribution to the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation