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HKSAR gov't calls for healthcare reform consensus
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21:17, March 13, 2008

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The government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Thursday launched a healthcare reform consultation to seek public views on the future development of the city's healthcare system and financing arrangements.

Presenting the consultation paper to the Hong Kong Legislative Council Health Services Panel on Thursday morning, Secretary for Food and Health of Hong Kong York Chow said the healthcare reform is a cross-generation project that concerns everyone in the society.

HKSAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang has expressed hope a consensus can be reached on how to reform Hong Kong's healthcare system to lay a solid foundation for its development within his term.

In a Thursday statement, Tsang described healthcare reform as vital for the future of Hong Kong community, the next generations and Hong Kong's development.

Noting it is a comprehensive package of proposals to address healthcare financing, Tsang urged all the political parties in the Legislative Council and the whole community to analyze the pros and cons of suggested reform and supplementary financing options rationally and practically and give their views.

Citing the anticipated 10 billion HK dollars rise in public spending on medical and health services by 2011-12 and the reservation of 50 billion HK dollars for implementing future healthcare reform, Tsang said these show the government's ever- increasing commitment to healthcare services, and its determination to work with the community for reforms.

While Hong Kong's health indicators rank among the best in the world, Chief Secretary for the Administration of HKSAR Henry Tang said, in face of an aging population and rapid advance in medical technology, the HKSAR government has the responsibility to join hands with the community to solve the problem of ever increasing medical costs.

He said proposals of the consultation document are aimed at maintaining the quality healthcare service, enhancing the efficiency of the healthcare system, promoting competition in service delivery, while at the same time improving health through preventive care, and ensuring that no one would be left unattended.

The first stage of healthcare reform public consultation will last for three months, until June 13.

In the consultation paper, the government said it plans to undertake reform in five areas which include: enhancing primary care to put greater emphasis on preventive care; promoting public-private partnership in healthcare, developing electronic health- record sharing, strengthening the public healthcare safety net, and reforming healthcare financing arrangements.

Six options for providing supplementary financing have been outlined in the paper for discussion which include: increasing user fees for public healthcare services; requiring the workforce to contribute a certain percentage of their income to fund healthcare for the whole population; encouraging more individuals to take out private health insurance in the market; setting up personal healthcare reserve; establishing medical savings accounts, as well as mandatory private health insurance.

Source: Xinhua

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