Doctors urge C.Y. Leung to move on medical insurance tax incentives

Leading doctors tell Leung Chun-ying the move should kick-start reforms to health financing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:48am


Calls are mounting for the government to give tax incentives to those buying medical insurance, in order to kick-start long-delayed health financing reforms.

It was one of several issues raised by 30 leading doctors, including core members of the Medical Association, during a meeting with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday.

Medical Association vice-president Dr Chow Pak-chin said a tax incentive would encourage more people to buy private medical insurance.

"As soon as the Treasury allows the tax incentive, it can be carried out shortly," Chow said.

He said promoting health insurance was the simplest way to ease the workload on public hospitals, as more patients with such insurance would use private sector services.

The voluntary health insurance scheme, proposed by former secretary for Health and Food York Chow Yat-ngok, has long been delayed amid concern from doctors and patient groups.

The Chief Executive's Office said Leung would listen to all views from within the medical sector.

Among other issues discussed at yesterday's meeting, doctors urged the government to conduct a comprehensive review of the Hospital Authority to improve its efficiency.

The group also strongly advised the government to have a long-term medical and health care policy for Hong Kong, rather than plan only for three to five years, which would be insufficient to address the issue of the city's rapidly ageing population.

Chow, of the Medical Association, said the group had also advised the government to expand private-public partnerships to treat more chronic diseases.

At present patients with cataracts are provided subsidies to have private surgery, which reduces the long waiting lists for the operation at public hospitals.

Other suggestions include allocating more resources for mental health treatment and increasing general vaccination rates from 8 per cent to 30 per cent of the population.

Chow said the association would follow up with the government on its suggestions.

Meanwhile, Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki, a private doctor, who was not at the meeting, said the government urgently needed to confirm the direction of its medical reforms in view of the ageing population. He agreed it should provide tax incentives for people who buy medical insurance but said making insurance mandatory would only widen the wealth gap.

"The priority of the government should be to improve medical services in public hospitals, to devote public resources to patients with acute diseases and cancer," said Kwok.