It is one of a dozen ideas intended to cut the Hospital Authority's deficit The government will discuss plans for a health savings scheme with lawmakers in June, with the Hospital Authority facing a deficit of $600 million. In a green paper released in December 2000, the government proposed that all workers aged 40 to 60 contribute 1 or 2 per cent of their monthly income to a Health Protection Account scheme. Studies costing $2 million had looked into the feasibility and implications of the scheme. Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Thomas Yiu Kei-chung told the Legislative Council health services panel meeting yesterday: 'We have jointly examined the issue with universities and by June we will be able to come to this panel to discuss initial findings.' The medical savings scheme is one of 12 measures that the Hospital Authority is considering to help solve its deficit problem. 'On the question of health-care financing, on many occasions people have told me that we must face this issue. We must come up with proposals,' said the authority director for professional services, Ko Wing-man. He said people were prepared to make small contributions, so there would be a 'viable and workable' plan. The authority will receive $27.8 billion from the government this year. It projects a budget deficit of $601 million, from $450 million last year. The deficit is the result of $500 million in annual staff salary increases and a one-off ex gratia payment of $54 million to workers who leave under the voluntary early retirement scheme. Dr Ko said the authority also planned to outsource some general outpatient clinics to private providers and work with agencies to offer care in non-hospital settings to infirmary and psychiatric patients. It is also exploring a voluntary insurance scheme that would be offered to groups of patients using public hospitals, such as charities, big corporations or the civil service. He said no decision had been made on the target groups. At a separate function, Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong said yesterday it would not raise hospital fees and charges for now. Authority chairman Leong Che-hung said it was examining options to generate income, such as charging traffic accident victims who carry third-party insurance the full cost of treatment.