The government's voluntary health insurance scheme looks set to cost subscribers 10 per cent more than current private schemes, but it would have wider coverage and there may be tax incentives, the health minister said.
Patient groups hope the scheme will offer a range of products with differing prices, and the insurance sector, which will sell it, hopes firms will have the flexibility to keep providing other medical plans, too.
The extra expense emerged from a report commissioned by the government to be made public by early next year, said Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man, who hopes the new insurance will take pressure of the public health system.
"The government will consider whether to offer tax discounts … to provide incentives to the middle class to buy the voluntary private medical insurance and reduce their use of public medical services," he said yesterday.
Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por said the government was proposing basic requirements for the scheme that included covering some medical procedures not usually covered by insurance. Nor did it want to increase charges when a user's health deteriorates, as is the case with most private schemes.
Tsang Kin-ping, spokesman for the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help Organisations, said the government should also provide a cheaper insurance option.
"More choices would be better for consumers," Tsang said.
The government should set a target on how many public medical sector patients it wants to divert to the private sector through this scheme and design the insurance accordingly. He said he was still waiting for officials to respond to questions he had asked.
The government has also proposed a "high-risk pool" of funding to cover people whose health risks are three times higher than normal and who are not accepted by insurers. In the first year, the policy would be open to all high-risk people, but after that only high-risk people aged under 40 would be able to sign up.