Medical savings account opposed

Updated: 2007-07-25 06:57

By Louise Ho(HK Edition)

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The Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA) yesterday opposed the mandatory medical savings account scheme proposed by think-tank Bauhinia Foundation.

In a preliminary report on Hong Kong's future health care development and financing released early this month, the Bauhinia Foundation had suggested setting up of medical savings accounts.

The report said except in major illnesses, the funds could not be withdrawn before the age of 65.

Calling the proposal inflexible, the HKMA said it would increase people's financial burden.

"We are concerned that people may not be allowed to use the funds when needed before 65," said Chu Kin-wah, vice president of HKMA yesterday.

"Private health insurance is a better option than medical savings accounts to finance Hong Kong's health care," he said.

"It is the easiest and most direct way of health care financing which can ease the pressure of public health care system," he said.

Currently 93 percent of patients are hospitalized in public hospitals, he said.

It would help to ease burden of public hospitals if 10 percent of those patients buy private health insurance and take admission in private hospitals instead, he said.

They, therefore, recommend the government to introduce the more flexible private health insurance, he said.

Expressing doubts about whether creating a "pillar 2" is necessary as suggested by the report, he said the current dual system of public subsidized primary care service (pillar 1) and private unsubsidized service (pillar 3) should be continued.

Creating a pillar 2, or extended primary care, would be costly, he said, adding that it would attract more patients to use public health care service, thus creating an imbalanced public and private health care systems.

In response to the HKMA's criticisms, spokesman for the Bauhinia Foundation said as a think-tank, they hoped their preliminary findings on Hong Kong's future health care development could stimulate debate among the community.

However, the think-tank welcomed feedback and comments which would be considered by their study group members before they release their final report in August, the spokesman added.

(HK Edition 07/25/2007 page6)