Senior citizens will be able to see optometrists and have HK$250 more to spend on private medical help next year, when the government rolls out its latest upgrade to the health voucher scheme for the elderly.
The move follows a government-commissioned survey last year in which two-thirds of senior citizens said the present subsidy scheme had not changed their habits of seeking medical aid or made them switch from public to private health care.
An additional HK$1.032 billion would be spent to expand the scheme in the next three years, the Food and Health Bureau said in a paper presented to the Legislative Council yesterday.
The government launched the scheme, aimed at people aged 70 and above, in 2009 with a budget of about HK$500 million. It was hoped that if help was provided, more elderly people would make use of private health care. They received five HK$50 vouchers a year, redeemable at participating private clinics, including those of Western doctors, Chinese herbalists and dentists.
However, 66 per cent of the 1,026 senior citizens surveyed by Chinese University said the scheme had not changed their habits. Seventy per cent used the vouchers for treatment of acute conditions, and only 6.5 per cent used them on preventive care.
It was announced in the budget speech last month that the subsidy would be doubled to HK$500 per person per year.
Optometrists will be able to join the scheme, but the elderly may use the vouchers for medical consultations only, not to buy spectacles.
Participating doctors will be asked to give the government more information, such as the amount a patient needs to pay after using the vouchers and the exact diagnosis.