Care options 'buy time' until poll Health chiefs will next week present the public with six options for future health financing - including higher taxes and various medical saving and insurance schemes - rather than setting out firm proposals, in the latest effort to kick-start long-delayed consultation on the vexed issue. The document, seen as a 'discussion of basic principles', is being pushed out partly to ease government embarrassment over repeated delays, even though officials acknowledge the reform plans are not ready, sources say. Fresh consultation on a set of concrete proposals is expected to be launched after the Legislative Council election in September. Medical sector leaders have criticised the latest move as a political ploy to buy time. The document, to be tabled in Legco on Thursday next week, includes a proposal for the government to provide subsidies to help people buy mandatory medical insurance, as an incentive to promote shared responsibility for health care. As well as higher taxes, financing options include voluntary or mandatory medical savings and insurance. The report will present different scenarios to show the public what services they would get from a particular level of medical savings. Health minister York Chow Yat-ngok earlier proposed a financing model under which individuals would save 3 to 5 per cent of their salaries for medical bills. But the plan failed to win Executive Council approval in early December and the Food and Health bureau reworked the proposal into its latest form. The bureau has hired a private consultant to promote the document. 'The consultation has been delayed several times and it has got to the point where it is too embarrassing' to delay it further, a source close to the government said. Another source close to the discussions said the government preferred a mixed model whereby people would put money into a medical savings account and use part of it for mandatory insurance, using the savings after the age of 65 and the insurance at any time. 'The aim is to promote shared responsibility on health care,' the source said. 'The target is to push better-off people to seek services in the private sector, leaving the public sector to the very poor and very sick patients.' Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah proposed in his budget speech to set aside HK$50 billion for health care reform, saying it could be the start-up capital for a saving scheme. It is understood that about HK$20 billion will be used as seed money for individual medical saving accounts, and the remaining HK$30 billion on reforming the health system infrastructure. But Hong Kong Medical Association president Choi Kin criticised the coming consultation as merely a 'political move'. 'It is so obvious that the government only wants to stall for time before the Legco election so it can gain enough support from pro-government lawmakers if it wants to go ahead with a mandatory medical saving scheme,' Dr Choi said. Medical sector legislator Kwok Ka-ki said it was disappointing that once again there were no concrete proposals put forward. 'I cannot see any political determination for reform ... it is like going back to square one.' But the chairman of public policy think-tank SynergyNet, Louis Shih Tai-cho, said he supported a mandatory insurance scheme. 'It would also be a good move if the government subsidises the public on insurance.'