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Healthcare regulation and ethics in Hong Kong

In recent weeks, there have been a number of news stories coming out of China regarding the latest health scandal which has caused a number of worries in the country, and sparked calls yet again for stricter regulation of the medical industry in china. While Hong Kong’s medical industry is separate from China, it has not been without its share of controversy over the past few weeks and months. Here, we take a look at the concerns the recent scandals have highlighted, what the government is doing to improve regulation, and their impact on health insurance.

Looking at the latest healthcare scam

In the first week of May 2016, the SCMP reported that “police arrested 11 women who were accused of cheating seven patients suffering cancer, skin disease and depression out of HK$5 million in total by offering “treatments” they were told could cure them.”

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The article went on to note that, At the clinic, “Six women and one man were given oxygen-inhalation and infrared light treatments at the beauty salon in Causeway Bay and told to carry a magnet at all times. They were asked to sign a declaration that they would not receive other treatment or take other medicine. They became suspicious when their health got worse, and two of them later died.”

This, combined with other recent cases such as reports that a number of beauty centers had been conducting invasive surgeries without the presence of a registered physician and the news about private hospitals in China offering medically unethical care has sparked some concern that the care offered by some private facilities may not be as adequate, safe, or even legitimate as we hope.  

To be clear, this is not an issue with all private hospitals. Many do offer quality care, follow ethical practice guidelines and hire highly trained doctors, but the issue does highlight that not all facilities are created and run equally.


Is the Hong Kong government doing anything to better regulate the healthcare industry?

The healthcare industry in Hong Kong, like other industries, does have regulations in place to help ensure that the quality of care available in the city is at a high enough level and all care offered meets ethical standards. However, in late 2014 the existing regulation was deemed to be not strict enough and an in-depth consultation was launched.

From this consultation, it was determined that the existing regulatory framework would get an overhaul, with a new bill being tabled to enact these changes later this year. According to news sources, “Hospitals, day procedure centres and clinics run by medical chains would come under the tougher rules, as would some beauty centres that perform high-risk procedures.” It appears that the Food and Health bureau will strive to increase regulation of 19 different areas related to health care, including regulating the standard of facilities, quality of care and transparency of price at private facilities.   

In short, private facilities, from hospitals through to beauty clinics, will have stricter regulations in place to minimize patients being scammed or harmed through improper medical procedures. With that said, this bill still needs to be passed by Legco. This is expected to happen later this year, so it may be a few months yet until any major reforms are enacted.   


How will health care reforms impact health insurance in Hong Kong?

It can be hard to predict whether these proposed reforms will have any impact on health insurance in Hong Kong, however, we predict that a number of propositions could have an impact on health insurance.

The most obvious among these is the proposed reform that will affect the transparency of pricing. If private institutes are forced to be more transparent with pricing it would be much easier for insurers to predict how much they will be paying out on claims. This reduces the risk of paying out more than expected, which in turn usually results in premiums being much easier to predict and manage. For the consumer, this should result in lower overall premium increases.

Similarly, increased quality of facilities and care should result in fewer claims being submitted for follow-up care. If you receive quality treatment up front, there should be less need to seek care from another doctor, which can be especially beneficial if you are managing a costly disease like cancer. When it comes to insurance, if fewer people make claims, you can expect premiums to increase at lower rates.

While we do have to wait for these reforms to be approved and enacted, it will be interesting to see what happens to both the private health insurance and healthcare sectors. In the meantime, if you are looking for a plan to cover care at the private hospitals and clinics in the city, along with recommendations on facilities that already offer quality care, please contact Pacific Prime today. Our experts can help you secure the best health insurance available.

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Jess Lindeman

Content Strategist at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.
Jess Lindeman