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Opening remarks by SFH at press conference on second stage public consultation on healthcare reform (with video)

     Following are the opening remarks by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, at a press conference on the second stage public consultation on healthcare reform today (October 6):

     I would like to introduce to you the direction and content of the three-month second stage public consultation on healthcare reform.

     The Health Protection Scheme (HPS) introduced today was drawn up having regard to the community's views revealed to us through the first stage public consultation in 2008.  

    The first stage consultation clearly reflected that there was a general recognition on the need for healthcare reform.  On healthcare financing, a greater proportion of the public expressed reservations about mandatory financing options.  They preferred voluntary choice for personalised healthcare services, and expected more choices of private healthcare services according to their own means and needs, as an alternative to public healthcare services.

     On public healthcare, I would like to stress that, first, the Government will only increase, and not reduce, its commitment to healthcare; second, the Government will continue to uphold public healthcare services as the community's healthcare safety net.

     On private healthcare, the community calls for more choices and better protection. The Health Protection Scheme (HPS) is thus designed with the following objectives in mind:

(i) provide a government-regulated, reliable and sustainable HPS for those who subscribe to private health insurance and use private healthcare services on a voluntary basis;

(ii) allow incremental relief of demand on public services so that public resources can focus on priority services to take care of the low-income and under-privileged groups;

(iii) enable those who voluntarily subscribe to private health insurance to continue to be able to afford health insurance at an older age and use private healthcare services; and

(iv) enhance transparency and competition in private health insurance and private healthcare sectors for better consumer protection and value-for-money services, thus enhance the healthy development and expansion of private services.

     I would like to take this opportunity to highlight 10 key features of the HPS:

* No turn-away (rejection) of subscribers and guaranteed renewal for life;
* Age-banded premium subject to adjustment guidelines;
* Covering pre-existing medical conditions subject to waiting period;
* High-risk individuals insurable with a cap on premium loading;
* Risks arising from accepting high-risk groups to be shared out through High-Risk Pool industry reinsurance;
* No-claim discount for premiums;
* Insurance plans renewable on leaving employment and portable between insurers;
* Insurers required to report all costs, claims and expenses;
* Standardised health insurance policy terms and definitions; and
* Establishment of a Government-regulated health insurance claims arbitration mechanism.

     Another key feature of the HPS is to promote medical fees with a packaged fees schedule for common procedures to enhance the transparency of charging (through Diagnosis-related group) and convenience for consumers.

     The Government has pledged to draw $50 billion from the fiscal reserve to support healthcare reform. To encourage participation in the HPS, we will consider making use of the $50 billion to provide incentives, such as subsidising and enabling high-risk individuals to get insured, to buffer the excess risk arising from the participation of high-risk individuals; attracting new joiners (especially the young) into the Scheme and incentivising savings for paying premiums at an older age.

     Healthcare reform is a continuous and evolving process to address the shortcomings of the existing healthcare system.  We need the public's views so that we could take forward healthcare reform and fine-tune the design of the Scheme.

     Thank you.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the opening remarks.)

Ends/Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:13


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