New health policy unwrapped

VOLUNTARY health insurance is being proposed – for a premium of HK$3,600, policyholders can be treated at private hospitals, have tests and non-surgical cancer treatment, and with no cost sharing.

A three-month consultation was launched on Monday on the proposed scheme. It ends on 16 March.

Policyholders will be eligible for an average HK$450 tax deduction.

An estimated 570,000 taxpayers and 360,000 dependants will be eligible for the deduction. It is estimated that each will pay a premium of about HK$3,600, or 9 percent more than the average premium in 2012.

The younger the group, the less they pay every year. For example, those aged under 15 will need to pay HK$1,250 annually, while the over-70s have to pay HK$9,950.

Workers aged 20-29 will pay HK$2,200 every year.

Secretary for Food and Health (食物及.生局局長) Ko Wing-man (高永文) said the middle class will benefit more.

A source said the plan would be sufficient to cover private hospital care in a general ward when needed.

“One new feature is if the insured person goes to a panel doctor set out by the insurer, they might not have to pay a dime,” the source said.

The standard plan will cover room and board, doctor’s visits and prescribed diagnostic tests.

“The voluntary health insurance scheme is not a total solution to the problems of our healthcare system, but one of the turning knobs to adjust the balance of the public and private healthcare sectors,” Ko said.

The standard plan would include guaranteed renewals and coverage of pre-existing conditions as part of 12 basic requirements that insurance companies have to abide by. These include accessibility to and continuity of coverage, quality of protection, enhanced transparency and certainty.

High-risk individuals will be able to buy hospital insurance through a publically funded, high-risk pool, which will be open to all in the first year upon implementation of the voluntary scheme and limited to those aged 40 or below afterwards.

The policyholder will pay the premium with a loading of 200 percent on the standard premium.

(The Standard, Mary Ann Benitez and Hilary Wong, 16 December, 2014)