Eyes on private medical scheme
When a voluntary medical insurance scheme is introduced, buy 2015, the government's key concerns will be on the composition of the Medical Council and the how to maintain high quality private medical care.
The Food and Health Bureau will proceed with reforming health care financing following the end of a three-month public consultation in January. Officials will brief lawmakers about the consultation's outcome on Monday.
Many of the 500 public submissions expressed concerns about the capacity of the private health care system, as well as the quality of treatments.
That is because the government plans to shift more people into private health care under a so-called Health Protection Scheme, which is intended to help ease the burden on the public health care system.
Under the scheme, insurers have to guarantee the renewal of medical insurance policies to the public, and they cannot exclude people with pre-existing conditions.
The bureau will review the manpower needs of the health-care sector over the next 10 to 20 years.
People familiar with the situation said the bureau planned to introduce a legislative bill regarding the scheme and the pertinent regulatory body in early 2013. The scheme aims to cover at least 500,000 residents.
Amid concerns about the quality of private medical care, the government will review the existing regulatory frameworks governing medical professionals and seek to enhance treatment quality.
Patients' groups have criticised the Medical Council for being dominated by doctors, while lacking the power to impose compulsory ongoing education on medical practitioners.
The Hospital Authority's recent efforts to introduce foreign doctors to resolve its manpower crisis were opposed by some Medical Council members.
An impending review of the composition and function of the Medical Council and other regulatory bodies would trigger a contentious debate.
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, secretary for food and health, yesterday briefed the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee about the scheme.
Dr Tse Hung-hing, a member of the committee and the Medical Council, said the government must consult the profession for any change to the council.
'Different people have different views on whether lay membership is adequate in the council,' Tse said.
'What is important is that the council now has a very good regulation of the profession. Doctors enjoy professional autonomy under the basic laws.'
The government previously proposed using HK$50 billion to fund the scheme in subsidising the medical premiums of the chronically ill, and to use as seed money in individual savings accounts.
But the public is divided over how the fund should be used.
The Medical Council has a relatively low number of lay members compared with its counterparts abroad.
The council now has 28 members. Four, or 14 per cent of the members, are lay people.
In Britain, lay members account for 50 per cent of the membership. In California and Michigan, it is 47 per cent.
In Australia and New Zealand, it is 33 per cent. And it is 52 per cent in Ireland. There are no lay members in Singapore.
The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, of the government's recurrent health-care spending estimate for 2011-12