So much for the "long-awaited" voluntary health insurance scheme. Stripped of all the flowery lingo, it amounts to this. All high-risk patients or people with pre-existing conditions will be able to get private insurance. But overall premiums are bound to shoot up for everyone. The government's estimate is a 9 per cent jump - that is, if you trust such official "guesstimates", which have a habit of being way off the mark. Who will pay for the extra premiums? The government, in its generosity, will cover the initial HK$4.3 billion. Wow, that's a lot of money. But wait, it's over 25 years, or HK$172 million a year. That certainly doesn't sound so generous. And who will cover the rest? You and I, assuming you have private health insurance. You can say we are being asked to pay a new health levy, except the money goes towards paying the insurers. The scheme is designed to offload most of the risks of taking on risky clients to the taxpayers. That is why the insurers have not been complaining. But at least the government is offering tax breaks for people who take out health insurance, though it has not disclosed by how much. Assuming they are sufficient to cover our extra premium - an optimistic belief - the net benefit for us, that is, the middle class of people who already have or will buy health insurance, is at best neutral. So don't believe the hyped-up headline that the proposed scheme will benefit 1.5 million people. Its primary goal is to offload a percentage of some 70,000 high-risk patients to the private healthcare sector because public medical services are overburdened. Some healthy people who might not have taken out insurance may be tempted to do so and start using private doctors. But then, such people can already buy cheap policies now, without the scheme. Previously, a government scheme was proposed with a 30 per cent subsidy for policy holders. That would really benefit the middle class. But now, officials clearly don't want to pay that much. I don't mind paying extra to help the needy and those at risk, but insurers should be made to shoulder more of the risks or costs too, not just reap the benefits.