Hong Kong seeks to expand voucher scheme for elderly patients to cover more mainland clinics
HK$2,000 yearly subsidy currently available at only one hospital in Shenzhen, as well as private health care services in city
More elderly Hongkongers retiring on the mainland are set to benefit from a local health voucher scheme, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said on Sunday.
Eligible locals receive a yearly HK$2,000 (US$255) voucher. The scheme can help pay for private health care services within the city, but the funds currently cannot be used on the mainland except at one institution, the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital (HKU-SZ Hospital), which saw 2,100 users under the scheme as of last year.
The city’s No 2 official said the government would seek ways to expand the scheme.
“The [Hong Kong] government will pay close attention to the implementation of the pilot scheme and explore the feasibility of expanding the elderly health care voucher scheme on the mainland,” Cheung wrote on his official blog in a post published on Sunday.
The trial for the voucher plan was first rolled out in 2015 with the aim of subsidising elderly patients using private health care services so as to enhance their care and ease the burden on the public sector.
The scheme initially provided subsidies for Hong Kong seniors aged 70 and above who held a valid Hong Kong ID to pay for outpatient services. It was expanded last July, with the age of eligibility lowered to 65.
The annual voucher amount per person is currently HK$2,000, and the ceiling for the accumulation of unspent vouchers is set at HK$4,000.
At the HKU-SZ Hospital in Futian, Shenzhen, the voucher amount to be deducted is calculated according to a monthly updated conversion factor, since the services provided by the mainland hospital are charged in yuan.
The family medicine clinic is one of the 11 clinics at the hospital where the voucher is valid.
According to the hospital’s official website, an initial visit to the clinic has a package fee of 200 yuan (HK$249), including the cost of registration, consultation, necessary investigation, simple treatments and up to seven days of medication. Each follow-up visit costs 100 yuan.
Four departments at the hospital – physiotherapy, medical imaging, clinical microbiology and infection control, and pathology – are also covered by the scheme, although numerated fees and charges are not available on the website.
Founded in November 2011, the hospital, which is located in a district bordering Hong Kong, was wholly invested by the Shenzhen government.
From October 2015 to the end of 2017, the number of transactions at the hospital involving the Hong Kong vouchers increased from 2,287 to 6,755, and the voucher amount used increased from HK$537,000 to HK$1,855,000, according to the Health Department.
The Census and Statistics Department estimated that some 78,200 Hongkongers aged 65 or above were living in the mainland regularly in 2011, accounting for about 8.3 per cent of the city’s total population in that age group.
As at mid-2016, Hong Kong’s population aged 65 and above had reached more than 1.16 million.