Payouts won't cover private medical costs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 October, 2010, 12:00am

The coverage in the medical-insurance package proposed by the government is only enough to cover half of the medical bill for private services, private doctors say.

The government proposal suggests that the coverage could reach HK$90,000 for common diseases like coronary angioplasty, HK$13,000 for cataracts and HK$22,000 for hernia procedures.

Health Minister York Chow Yat-ngok said the estimates were based on market prices. 'The amount is fair and is not below market price. After all, no doctors would underperform to risk their patients' health and life because of price.'

But cardiologist Dr Duncan Ho Hung-kwong, also a council member of the Medical Association, said the amounts would cover only half of the fees in the private sector. For instance, patients have to fork out HK$110,000 to HK$200,000 for an angioplasty, depending on the seniority of doctors and the facilities used. The cost for a cataract was HK$20,000 to HK$30,000 per eye.

Private surgeon and former legislator Dr Kwok Ka-ki said the government's estimates were based on the rates of the most junior doctors and the costs for outdated medical facilities. For hernia procedures, doctors nowadays would opt for minimally invasive surgery that would cost about HK$50,000.

'The government can suggest any price it wants if it does not take into account the service quality.'

Both private doctors accused the government of understating medical costs to put pressure on doctors to cut fees.

But medical sector legislator Dr Leung Ka-lau said hospitals could charge at a level similar to the proposal's reimbursement limits.

'As long as there are enough service providers, competition in the free market will draw prices down.'