The Hong Kong Health Care Debate: Private Versus Public

It may not seem like it from the outside, but health care is one of the most hotly debated topics in Hong Kong. In fact, some observers speculate that dissatisfaction with health insurance proposals forcing people to move from public to private healthcare was a factor in sparking demonstrations early in the year. This is because it taps into the serious public versus private debate currently brewing in the city-state.

Health insurance firms such as go to great lengths to provide specialised plans for people with different circumstances, but not everyone is doing the same. This led the government to propose a plan that would shift everyone from public facilities to private providers in order to ease the burden on government-funded services. But this move would increase the premiums of more than 200,000 people that may or may not be worth it.

This is always the problem when governments try to institute sweeping general plans on the populace, especially with something as personal and serious as health care. It is a fact that general plans are a necessary evil, since there will be groups that will not like its provision. But when the plan involves serious illnesses, and thousands of dollars in yearly expenses, it becomes a much more serious topic.

The best way to look at an issue such as this is through the point of view of all sides, in this case the sides are the government and the middle-class. It is easy to see the grievances the latter group have with the plan, increased premiums are never a welcome sight, especially if they are healthy, low-risk patients.

The government side is a bit more complex; the purpose of the plan is twofold: ease the financial burden on the public sector, and focus on high-risk patients. The first reason is logical; while there will be few groups that are willing to argue against the second. This leaves the debate at an impasse wherein both sides have a stake, but are unwilling to fault the other for their reasons.

The city is now deadlocked in a waiting game to see how things will turn out, and hope for the best that the people will get the best of all possible worlds in the winning scenario.