The government may take on a "middle-man role" in private health insurance cases, helping to decide claims, process compensation and register complaints, the health minister said.
Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man told a radio talk show that the government would soon roll out a plan to consolidate health insurance regulations in an effort to improve coverage and encourage more people to buy it.
"The government needs to regulate these insurances and ensure those who brought it were really guaranteed," Ko said on Commercial Radio. "We will have to look into the content and quality of insurance products in the private market."
Details of the proposal were still being worked out, but were likely to be unveiled later this year as part of a long-delayed health reform plan.
Ko said such changes were necessary because public hospitals currently absorb more than 90 per cent of Hong Kong's patients. Only three in 10 Hongkongers has health insurance.
The effort to improve private health insurance follows a 2008 consultation by the former administration that concluded a mandatory insurance scheme was unpopular and that the city should pursue a voluntary one.
Ho said the government would attempt to play a go-between role to make sure customers were dealt with fairly. Meanwhile, tax incentives would be given to encourage the people to buy their own medical insurance.
The government would not, however, seek to regulate the price of insurance plans, Ko said. Instead, it would set up a financial risk pool to subsidise companies who offer coverage to "high risk" customers excluded under current plans.
"We would not want to put the company out of business," Ko said. "In this way, the insurance company would not have to worry about taking an extreme risk … but they may not have the right to turn away people seeking to buy insurance."