The serious imbalance between the public and private medical sectors in Hong Kong has prevailed for so many years that one would have thought it would have long been diagnosed and fixed as a matter of priority. Successful governments, to their credit, have sought to address the problem with piecemeal measures, but the result still leaves much to be desired. In another much-needed push, a think tank led by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has proposed a voucher scheme to help screen residents for chronic diseases and provide subsidies for treatment. Those aged between 45 and 54 will be tested for hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia. The pilot scheme is expected to save as much as HK$12.5 billion (US$1.6 billion) on diabetes-related care expenses and prevent 47,000 premature deaths in 30 years, according to the Our Hong Kong Foundation. The concept of subsidising patients for treatment in private medical facilities is not new. What sets the latest proposal apart is a more targeted approach. Even though the government’s annual HK$2,000 per head voucher for those aged 65 and above has somewhat helped ease the burden on public clinics and hospitals, there were cases of abuse, with subsidies spent on expensive eyewear and preserved seafood products. The study by the think tank came with the government about to launch a review of the health care system to speed up a public-private partnership. The report should lead to wider debate on an issue that is too often not given sufficient publicity. Covid-19 concerns keeping Hongkongers from hospital cancer screenings A government survey showed some 1.8 million people, or 24 per cent of the population, have chronic diseases that require treatment or medication. Currently, there are 1.43 million people aged 65 or above, or 19.3 per cent of the population. The figure is expected to surge to 31 per cent by 2036. The fast ageing population means chronic diseases may become more widespread. The burden is not only on hospitals, but also public coffers. Recurrent funding for the Hospital Authority this year amounts to HK$80.7 billion, a 45 per cent increase over that of 2017-18. Whoever is at the city’s helm for the next five years must not shy away from tackling the imbalance with a greater sense of urgency.