HK$50b set aside for health care reform

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 February, 2008, 12:00am

The government will put up HK$50 billion to kick-start reform of health care financing to show its 'determination to share the health-care financing burden' with Hongkongers, the finance chief said.

John Tsang Chun-wah said the money, from the fiscal reserves, would be put up commitment regardless of the future financial situation and the form the changes take.

'It does not matter what the ultimate health-care-financing proposal will be like, we will be giving out this HK$50 billion. The health-care-financing paper will be out soon.'

An external study estimated that without financing reform, spending on public health services would increase from HK$38 billion in 2004 to HK$180 billion in 2033, Mr Tsang said.

He stressed that the government was committed to increasing the share of health care expenditure to 17 per cent of its recurrent expenditure by 2012.

'The share of the cost of public health-care services could increase substantially from the present 15 per cent of government recurrent expenditure to over 27 per cent,' he said.

'If we do not introduce new financing arrangements, the provision of quality public health-care services cannot be sustained.'

Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok will conduct a public consultation on health care reform to discuss various proposals and supplementary financing options.

Mr Tsang said: 'I hope the community will understand the urgency of health care reform and reach a consensus.'

He will also inject HK$1 billion into the Samaritan Fund so more new medicines can be included in the subsidy list.

The legislator for the medical sector, Kwok Ka-ki, said HK$50 billion would not be sufficient. 'That may only account for one year by 2012 when health care reform is put into action,' Dr Kwok said.

Lingnan University economist Ho Lok-sang said how the money would be used was unclear, given that the financing plan had yet to be announced. 'It is very difficult to comment but the spirit of putting aside some funds for future contingencies is fine,' Professor Ho said.