Public confused over health care reforms

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2008, 12:00am

The first three-month stage of the public consultation on health care reform finishes today and a survey has found that only one in 10 people know what the proposals are.

Lawmakers said any reform was premature at this stage.

Last month's survey by the public opinion programme of the University of Hong Kong polled 1,015 people. It found that 78 per cent knew very little or nothing about the six options suggested in the discussion paper on health care financing.

The options included proposals on mixed mandatory savings, insurance and full user-pays models to full private health care insurance.

Of the 147 people who said they knew what the reform was about, 34 per cent could not describe any of the financing options.

And only 9.7 per cent of respondents could describe one or more of the financing options. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The result came as Secretary for Food and Health York Chow Yat-ngok said government officials had attended at least 160 forums to explain the proposals over the consultation period.

He said more than 1,200 submissions on the subject had been received and the government had conducted focus groups to analyse the requirements of various groups.

Kwok Ka-ki, lawmaker for the medical sector, said the survey reflected the 'complete failure' of the consultation.

'The public doesn't understand the options at all,' he said. 'It would be dangerous if the government still put forward the reform without mature discussion.'

Dr Kwok, who initiated the survey, said empty television advertisements were not helping. He said the government should restart the consultation and provide details about implementation and an analysis of different options. At best, he said, a referendum was necessary on such an important issue.

Of 289 people polled in the accountancy sector last month, only 13 per cent understood the proposals.

Mandy Tam Heung-man, lawmaker for the sector, said the consultation was not advanced enough for any medical reform to occur, as the government had released scant information on the proposals.She said it must provide a cost-benefit analysis of each option, along with the relevant administration costs and other details.

A Hong Kong Research Association survey this month also found more than half of nearly 3,000 respondents did not know the details of the health care proposals.