Commission on Poverty convenes 24th meeting in its second term
The Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation Limited (HKMC) briefed members on the life annuity scheme at the meeting. As early as December 2015, the CoP's consultation document on retirement protection had already flagged up a proposal of a public annuity scheme for public discussion. In the ensuing six-month consultation period, many members of the public agreed that it was a policy direction worth considering.
Members thanked the HKMC for its positive response and for being able to formulate details of the scheme in such a short time. Members considered that the scheme, in addition to strengthening the pillar of voluntary savings, would complement other measures announced in the 2017 Policy Address to enhance financial support for elderly persons in need, improve the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) System and better meet the healthcare needs of elderly persons. It will reinforce the existing multi-pillar retirement protection system in Hong Kong, and address different needs of retirees, in particular the middle-class elderly persons who have certain assets but may know little about investments.
The HKMC, wholly owned by the Government, and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority will be responsible for the operation and investment of the life annuity scheme respectively. The scheme will provide a reliable investment tool for elderly persons to turn their MPF benefits and other savings into monthly payouts, providing greater financial certainty for their retirement lives. Members were pleased to learn that the HKMC is finalising the details with a view to launching the scheme in the middle of next year. Members also considered that the scheme can be enhanced in future, including raising the subscription limit in light of the public response and providing additional features to counter inflation.
In addition, the CoP noted the progress of implementation of the assistance programmes and the financial position of the Community Care Fund (CCF), including the plan to extend the Elderly Dental Assistance Programme to cover Old Age Living Allowance recipients aged 70 or above in early July this year. Apart from endorsing the expansion of two existing assistance programmes to strengthen support for students with mental illness, and the addition of a new drug list and budget of the First Phase Programme of the CCF Medical Assistance Programmes, the CoP also agreed to launch eight new assistance programmes. Details are as follows:
Expanding existing assistance programmes to support students with mental illness
1. The CoP agreed to expand two programmes, namely Provision of Funding for Ordinary Schools to Arrange Special Educational Needs Coordinators, and Enhancing the Academic Expenses Grant for Students with Special Educational Needs and Financial Needs Pursuing Post-secondary Programmes, to cover students with mental illness from the 2017/18 academic year onwards.
New drug list and budget of the First Phase Programme of the CCF Medical Assistance Programmes
2. The CoP approved the new drug list of the First Phase Programme of the CCF Medical Assistance Programmes to include from this August onwards three specific self-financed cancer drugs (pertuzumab, abiraterone and enzalutamide) and an additional designated clinical indication for bevacizumab, a drug already on the list. This will increase the number of self-financed cancer drugs to 16 under the First Phase Programme for treating 14 cancer diseases. Furthermore, the CoP endorsed the seventh budget of the First Phase Programme, covering August 2017 to March 2019, with a total provision of $371.835 million. The CoP also agreed to adopt the planned revision to the financial assessment criteria of the Samaritan Fund (SF), including narrowing the definition of "household" to cover only the patient and his/her core family members living under the same roof, and providing non-means-tested full subsidy to elderly persons holding a Level 0 voucher of the Pilot Scheme on Residential Care Service Voucher for the Elderly (the asset limits of which are comparable to the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme) when they apply for the First Phase Programme.
Eight new assistance programmes
3. The CoP agreed to subsidise eligible patients to purchase ultra-expensive drugs (including those for treating rare diseases) starting from this August. The programme will first include eculizumab, a drug to treat paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria. The Hospital Authority (HA) expects that 10 to 16 patients will benefit from the programme in the first 12 months. The total provision covering August 2017 to March 2019 is $117.348 million. Throughout the programme, the HA will from time to time select suitable drugs under the existing evaluation mechanism for the CoP's consideration for inclusion in the programme. The HA will also study the feasibility of including ultra-expensive drugs into the safety net of the SF or other funds.
4. The CoP agreed to subsidise eligible patients in public hospitals to purchase specified implantable medical devices for interventional procedures (interventional medical devices) starting from this August. Transcatheter aortic valve implantation and the MitralClip system for treating patients with valvular heart disease and mitral regurgitation respectively will first be introduced into the programme. The HA expects that 42 patients will benefit in the first 12 months of the programme. The total provision covering August 2017 to March 2019 is $17.331 million. Throughout the programme, the HA will from time to time select suitable interventional medical devices under the existing evaluation mechanism for the CoP's consideration for inclusion in the programme. The HA will also to study the feasibility of introducing ultra-expensive interventional medical devices into the safety net of the SF or other funds.
5. The CoP agreed to implement from this September onwards a pilot scheme to provide a special subsidy for persons with permanent stoma from low-income families to purchase medical consumables. Each eligible person will be provided a maximum of $1,000 each month depending on his/her household assets and income. With a total provision of $50.64 million, the three-year pilot scheme is expected to benefit about 1 500 people.
6. The CoP agreed to subsidise eligible non-local qualification holders with financial needs to apply for qualification assessment for general purposes by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications starting from this September. With a total provision of $8.67 million, the three-year programme is expected to benefit about 3 000 people.
7. The CoP agreed to launch a pilot scheme this October to relax the income limit of the Fee Waiving Subsidy Scheme for After School Care Programme and provide additional fee waiving and fee reduction quotas under the programme. Under this pilot scheme, applicants with monthly household income above 75 per cent but not exceeding 100 per cent of the relevant Median Monthly Domestic Household Income will receive a one-third reduction of fees for after school care services. The quota for fee waiving will be increased to 2 000. With a total provision of $52 million, the three-year pilot scheme is expected to benefit about 3 000 people.
8. The CoP agreed to launch a pilot scheme this December to subsidise eligible low-income women to receive cervical cancer screening and preventive education. With a total provision of $78.61 million, the three-year pilot scheme is expected to benefit over 66 000 low-income women.
9. The CoP agreed to launch a pilot scheme to provide home care and support services for eligible elderly persons with mild impairment. Under the pilot scheme, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) will develop a simple and standard assessment tool for service providers to identify eligible elderly persons and formulate personal care programmes. Elderly persons can flexibly select suitable single or multiple meal delivery and/or household services based on their individual needs. The three-year pilot scheme will be launched in the last quarter of this year at the earliest. With a total provision of $383.34 million, it will provide a quota for about 4 000. The SWD will conduct a review on the effectiveness of the pilot scheme, which is expected to be completed in the end of 2019.
10. The CoP agreed to launch a pilot scheme to support elderly persons discharged from public hospitals after treatment. Through medical-social collaboration, eligible elderly persons who cannot take care of themselves during rehabilitation will be provided transitional residential and/or community care services and support for a period of no more than six months. This is to avoid premature long-term institutionalisation in residential care homes. Under the pilot scheme, service providers will provide transitional care services based on the needs of the elderly persons according to the discharge support plans formulated in collaboration with the SWD and the HA. Training and support will also be provided to carers. The three-year pilot scheme will be launched in the first quarter of 2018 at the earliest. With a total provision of $225.9 million, it is expected to benefit at least 3 200 elderly persons. The SWD will conduct a review on the effectiveness of the pilot scheme, which is expected to be completed in the end of 2019.
Ends/Monday, May 29, 2017
Issued at HKT 20:00
Issued at HKT 20:00