PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 November, 2010, 12:00am

Health insurance plan a good idea

The voluntary health insurance plan was approved by the Executive Council recently. The proposal has been criticised by some people because, for example, patients with a chronic disease can only claim full medical fees after they have been in the plan for four years, and the premiums of high-risk patients will be rather high.

Despite these objections, I still support the scheme. First, it was the most popular of the six health-care reform plans put forward by the government for public consultation over the past two years. Two-thirds of the respondents in a university survey also agree there is an urgent need for reform of Hong Kong's medical system, while more than 70 per cent support the voluntary health insurance plan.

Second, this scheme is reasonable, as the 'user pays' principle is fair. I admit that I do not fully understand the difficulties of people suffering from chronic diseases. However, I believe patients who can afford the premiums should join the plan. Taxpayers should continue to support patients who cannot work.

Some chronically ill patients often complain that their premiums are very high or they have been rejected by insurers. But policy holders can enjoy a 30 per cent discount on premiums if they enrol in the first year of the scheme's existence.

Moreover, as promised by the government, insurance companies will not be allowed to turn away any applicant.

Due to the ageing problem, the operating cost of our heavily subsidised public hospitals will be huge if the public continues to rely on their services. Either the tax rate will need to be greatly increased, or Hong Kong's medical system will struggle if no new policies are carried out.

Lui Yiu-yee, Tsuen Wan Government Secondary School

Several ways to lighten your load

As many as 700,000 Hong Kong people suffer chronic pain, a survey by the Pain Alliance has found.

The most common complaints are pain in the waist, back, shoulder and neck. The survey also found a rising trend of younger patients. This is because students need to carry a lot of heavy books and other study materials to school every day.

There are many things students can do to reduce their daily load. First, they can carry only the books they need for that day. They can use a rucksack instead of a schoolbag, as the weight is more evenly distributed on the shoulders and back.

Loose-leaf textbooks, if available, are more suitable than traditional ones, so students can carry individual chapters instead of the whole volume. The book industry should produce moreloose-leaf textbooks or smaller volumes.

As fluids are very heavy, take empty bottles to school. It would help if schools provided water machines and lockers.

The government should regulate the size and weight of books.

Katon Lee

Japan knows the meaning of greening

Can you imagine a city with no rubbish bins in the streets which is still clean? I saw such places in Japan during a short student exchange programme this summer.

I was deeply impressed by the environmental awareness among the Japanese. It is obvious they are truly committed to preserving their environment.

There are no bins in the streets, shopping malls and buildings because the Japanese take their rubbish home and put it in specific containers for recycling. They are so conscious about cutting greenhouse gases that some schools have no air conditioners. Those that do have air cons keep the temperature at 28 degrees Celsius.

Would Hong Kong people make such sacrifices? I think we can do much more to protect our environment and save our planet from destruction.

Bethany Fong, Tak Nga Secondary School

Illegal downloads

Downloading songs and movies online without payment or permission is illegal in Hong Kong.

Companies can counteract piracy by releasing legal goods online and allowing people to use them for free for a limited time.

Users can be persuaded to buy them legitimately and even be offered discounts. This way, pirated products would lose their appeal as people would be more willing to download the official versions.

Bun Koon