Health-care voucher scheme for elderly in Hong Kong not very user-friendly

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 3:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 11:14pm

The elderly health-care voucher scheme aims to subsidise eligible elders (all those over 70, and shortly to be 65) to use private primary care services as an alternative to the grossly overstretched public sector.

This is to be welcomed, although the annual allowance of

HK$2,000 appears rather niggardly given the high cost of private care services.

However, not all medical practitioners participate in the voucher scheme and, whereas the Department of Health publishes a list of those that do (available on the internet or by fax), it does not contain any information as to participating medical practitioners with specialist registrations.

This lack of information does not appear to be a problem in selecting a general practitioner (GP), as those who are participating display notices to this effect at their practices. However, it presents a problem if the patient is subsequently referred to a specialist.

The patient may just assume that the specialist does participate in the voucher scheme. Obviously, if this is not the case, then financial embarrassment could ensue. Presumably, the more savvy patients would ask their referring GP, who may or may not know or, failing that, they would inquire at the specialist’s practice.

However, if the specialist does not participate, then a return journey to the GP may be needed for an alternative referral (another consultation fee?).

The department advises that reference may be made to the webpage of the Medical Council of Hong Kong for the lists of registered medical practitioners with specialist registrations and that this can be cross-checked with the department’s list of participating medical practitioners.

However, this hardly appears practical for the elderly who may well be in frail health mentally and physically and with no knowledge of the internet.

I suggest this issue should be addressed. The department should make the voucher scheme more user friendly, including in its list of participating medical practitioners, details of those with specialist registrations, and for such lists to be available for reference at all participating GPs’ practices, libraries and district council offices.

Doug Miller, Tai Po