Private-sector doctors fear a Hang Seng Bank medical insurance scheme that offers unlimited consultations for $108 a month could lead to unhealthy cost-cutting and compromise patient care. It also has raised the concern of the Hong Kong Medical Association, which is examining the implications of the scheme and will issue an advisory to doctors. The bank launched the outpatient medical insurance plan with a group of 600 doctors on January 15, promising 'low premium for comprehensive outpatient medical services'. A free eye and ear examination is provided for applicants who sign up before March 15. Two or more family members enrolling receive a five per cent discount on their monthly premiums. The medical scheme offers three plans, with premiums set according to age and extent of coverage. The cheapest - at $108 a month - offers unlimited GP consultations and three-day medicines, but at a cost of $20 a visit, and 10 visits with a specialist, at an extra $40. The most expensive plan of $252 a month offers unlimited GP and specialist consultations, 20 visits with a Chinese herbalist, one medical check-up and $3,000 worth of X-ray and laboratory tests. Doctors providing the service belong to the Healthcare Medical and Paramedical Services Operations (HK) in Kowloon Bay. A one-off visit to a private doctors, plus two days of medicine, normally costs $100 to $150. The chairman of the Medical Council, Dr Lee Kin-hung, said doctors should ensure such medical schemes were ethical and in the best interests of patients. 'If you are entering a scheme which involves capitation [a uniform fee per head], doctors must make sure that the fee is not too low as to compromise the care of patients,' he said. The president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, Dr Lo Wing-lok, who is also a legislator, said an association taskforce on managed care was examining the Hang Seng Bank plan and would be issuing an advisory to doctors 'to be very careful' because it could present 'moral hazards'. 'This is a commercial operation . . . and the interest of a commercial operation is profit and the interest of shareholders. But as doctors we serve patients, not shareholders,' Dr Lo said. When asked if premiums were too low, a Hang Seng spokeswoman said there were various plans to meet customers' needs. 'We know there are similar plans in the market, although these are being provided to staff of corporations. We saw the demand for this kind of service. There are nearly 600 doctors who have joined this network, indicating there is supply and demand for this service,' the spokeswoman said. Writing in the Internet chat room of the Public Doctors' Association, one doctor said: 'We doctors simply cannot fight against these big groups.' Another wrote: 'Some may even have their [practices'] survival threatened.'