HONG KONG firms paid an average $1,001 a day for hospital room and board compensation for its workers last year, according to a report surveying local medical benefits. In the 1996 Survey of Medical Benefits in Hong Kong put out by William M. Mercer, basic room and board coverage increased by about 8 per cent over 1995 (about $925). The survey covered 133 companies with about 73,582 employees to assess the level of coverage provided, competitiveness of plans and the degree to which additional benefits were provided. Mark Baxter, manager and director of William M. Mercer, said companies were looking to control medical costs. 'They are trying to work out utilisation as certain benefits some staff don't use while others are frequently used. 'By giving employees a choice of benefits, they can actually make sure that those who don't use certain things are not disadvantaged and they might get money instead,' he said. In other findings, the report noted the majority of schemes provided outpatient benefits (98 per cent versus 96 per cent in 1995), mostly through insurance or a company doctor. About 65 per cent of the schemes offered 100 per cent reimbursement, while 33 per cent offered 80 per cent. The average doctor's consultation was $233 (with 100 per cent reimbursement) and $433 for an outpatient specialist visit. About $1,959 was spent annually on pharmaceutical drugs. The average maximum benefit for an annual check-up was $3,889. Maternity benefits continued to slide for the third consecutive year as only 20 per cent of the schemes provided provisions. Of the schemes that did cover maternity, all had 100 per cent reimbursement coverage. With dental, there was a 9 per cent increase, with 36 per cent of the schemes offering coverage.