Face Off: should we adopt the subsidised Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme?

Face Off: should we adopt the subsidised Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme?

Each week, two of our readers will debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn't necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week's topic is ...

Joseph Ho Hei-chi, 20, University of Hong Kong

Imagine you are in your 60s, and your health is starting to decline. Then you receive the worst possible news – you have cancer. And you realise you are unable to pay your huge medical bill. A majority of Hongkongers simply can’t afford to be ill.

Health insurance should be considered an investment. Healthy young people are unlikely to save up for potential future medical costs, because they simply don’t anticipate needing it. To encourage people to invest in protecting their health, the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) would provide incentives with tax deductions for insurers. The more insurers that invest into the risk pool, the lower the cost to individuals.

The scheme would also help to reform our medical services. Although the city’s health care system is hailed as one of the best in the world, our public hospitals are under massive pressure. The VHIS encourages people to opt for private medical services, which would ease the strain on public hospitals.

Hong Kong’s population is ageing, and soon the government will have to pour more money into the health care industry to keep future generations healthy for longer.

The VHIS is a voluntary scheme. No one would be forced to sign up for it. Many middle-class families would be able to afford the scheme. Health insurance companies that opt for the VHIS would be subject to regulation to ensure they served the public properly.

Unexpected things happen in life all the time, and we shouldn’t have to be burdened with crippling medical fees, or be forced to pass these debts on to the next generation. We urgently need a comprehensive scheme that prepares us for the worst – even if the worst never comes.

It’s the duty of every Hongkonger to contribute to the community or to help the poor. The VHIS is a very important scheme that would do just that, as it would ease the pressure on the city’s public health sector, making it easier for the needy to seek subsidised medical assistance.

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Henry Lui, 17, Sha Tin College

With public hospitals unable to cope with the demand, the government has proposed a subsidised Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme that would encourage middle-class families to use private health care services. But this policy won’t actually help the people of Hong Kong – it will only benefit big businesses. If adopted, the VHIS will join the West Kowloon Cultural District project on a long list of government-business scams.

The main objection to the scheme is the fact that it actively promotes and assists private insurance firms and the private health care industry – an industry that profits from people’s illnesses. Under the programme, the government would subsidise an unspecified portion of the cost of insurance, even if the consumers enrolled in VHIS don’t need any treatment. The private health care industry, which is known for charging sky- high prices, would also benefit as the scheme will directly encourage consumers to use private, rather than public, services.

Another concern is that the government might stop providing non-emergency surgery and treatment for chronic diseases in public hospitals, and instead outsource the bulk of those services to the private sector. This means that people who aren’t enrolled in the scheme might also be forced to use private health care, as the services they need might no longer be available to them in public hospitals. No one, except for private doctors, will benefit from this.

The government has also given in to the insurance sector by limiting the VHIS to people who are not considered “high-risk” patients and do not have a medical history. But this defeats the purpose of insurance!

The precise reason why certain people need insurance is because they are aware that there is a risk of them falling ill. With those who are actually in need of insurance removed from the equation, all that remains is perfectly healthy people who are needlessly paying insurance premiums. The VHIS is nothing more than a middle-class rip-off.

If imposed, it will mark the death of affordable public health care; hence, it must be opposed by all.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Should we adopt the subsidised Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme?


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