CityU hosts roundtable forum on Hong Kong’s healthcare reform

Mirror Fung

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Representatives from government, business, the general public and academia shared views on the government’s proposed reforms for financing healthcare at a forum at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) on 18 December.

The roundtable forum was titled “Medical Financing: Voluntary Insurance as the Way Out?” It was co-organised by the Governance in Asia Research Centre (GARC) of CityU and SynergyNet.

Professor Way Kuo, President of CityU, began proceedings with a warm welcome to participants, pointing out that the proposed healthcare reform was an important public issue for Hong Kong.

"It is therefore crucial that CityU, as a leading global university for professional education, provides a platform for people to participate in discussions and to voice their views,” Professor Kuo said.

The forum tied in with the government’s second stage public consultation on the proposed healthcare reform. Proposals advocate a voluntary, government-regulated private medical insurance scheme in the face of a rapidly ageing population and rising healthcare costs.

The forum was organised into two major parts. The first session, chaired by Professor Martin Painter, Director of GARC, focused on the merits and limitations of the government’s $50-billion Health Protection Scheme (HPS).

Concerns were raised during the roundtable discussion about whether a voluntary private health insurance would serve to ease the pressure—financial or otherwise—on the public healthcare system as the government has suggested.

In addition, questions were raised over the level of protection for patients in high-risk categories and the sustainability of the new financing scheme.

"Services to high-risk groups are a major financial burden for the Hospital Authority. Can the proposed savings scheme provide adequate support for people under the HPS when they are older?” asked Dr Chan Ho-mun, Associate Professor of the Department of Public and Social Administration at CityU.

If the proposed scheme fails to cover high-risk groups, patients may have to fall back on public hospitals, Dr Chan added. It may even damage the public health system because the private healthcare sector might expand, triggering a manpower drain from the public sector.

Other speakers included Dr Ko Wing-man, Member of the Medical Council; Dr George Cautherley, Vice-Chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Foundation; Mr Michael Somerville, Chairman of the Health Care Committee of the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong; and Professor M Ramesh, Chair Professor of Governance and Public Policy, Faculty of Arts and Sciences of the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

The second session of the forum, chaired by Dr Amy Ho Po-ying, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Applied Social Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, focused on consensus building among major stakeholders.

Participants included Dr Alex Chan Wo-shun, Vice Chairperson of SynergyNet; the Hon Chan Kin-por, Legislative Councillor; the Hon Albert Ho Chun-yan, Legislative Councillor and Chairperson of the Democratic Party; the Hon Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Legislative Councillor and Chairperson of Civic Act-up; and Mr Tsang Kin-ping, Chairperson of the Alliance of Patients’ Mutual Help Organizations.

They looked at how medical financing could be conducted more effectively, and where the money could be spent more responsibly. Wrapping up the forum was an endnote address by Professor Gabriel Leung Cheuk-wai, Under Secretary for Food and Health.

The event attracted an audience of over 80 academics, students and representatives from corporations and the general public.

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