The Hong Kong government is focussing first on the launch of the voluntary health insurance scheme (VHIS), which is expected to be rolled out next year, says Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.
A pool to cover high-risk individuals under the VHIS is still on the table, but its implementation date has yet to be decided upon. The high-risk pool would allow people with higher health risks, such as chronically ill patients, to purchase hospital insurance
“It is hard to estimate the difficulty [in introducing the high-risk pool]. At the moment we don’t have a timetable on when it can be done,” said Prof Chan. “We have not given up,” she said. “We will continue to explore the feasibility of a high-risk pool.”
According to a report in South China Morning Post, Prof Chan explained that a consensus on whether to subsidise patients with high health risks had not been reached in Hong Kong society.
The government had previously announced that it expected to spend about HK$4.3 billion (US$548 million) subsidising high-risk patients over a 25-year period. However, the proposal was shelved.
“One reason a high-risk pool could not be done was because some people think the government is subsidising private service,” Prof Chan said. “But some others also think the money should be spent on public health services.”
She said public opinion on how the government should allocate resources for health care might change when more people had used health insurance.
The VHIS was proposed by the government around a decade ago with the aim of encouraging Hong Kong residents to shift to private healthcare so as to relieve the burden on government healthcare institutions in the long run. Since 2008, the Hong Kong government has conducted two public consultation exercises on healthcare service reforms and healthcare financing options. In December 2014, the government initiated a three-month public consultation on implementing the VHIS.