As rent, medicine costs and surgeon fees soar, medical expenditure is likely to increase in the future. A quadrennial Doctors’ Fees Survey published by the Hong Kong Medical Association¹ in January 2019 revealed that costs of most medical services have gone up. It also recorded a median costs of HKD300 and HKD800 for medical services provided by general practice and specialist practice respectively, signifying a 20% and a 15% increase since 2014. Charges for surgical operations are also a lot higher compared to four years ago.
The public healthcare system is struggling to cope with the boost in demand due to the increase in private healthcare expenditure. That said, medical costs in public hospitals are in fact more expensive than you think. A VHIS Perception Survey² conducted by AXA Hong Kong revealed that 37% and 23% of customers underestimate the medical expenses of heart disease and cancer treatment, especially the self-financed ones. Furthermore, one out of five respondents said they had no idea of the cost at all. Take heart disease and cancer — Hong Kong’s top killer diseases — as an example, the stent used in balloon angioplasty and heart bypass surgery, which is usually self-financed, costs over a staggering HKD100,000. As for cancer treatment, although new targeted therapies are more effective, as those cancer drugs may not be on the Hospital Authority Drug Formulary, they could cost over HKD250,000 per year.
To be launched by the government in April, VHIS seeks to relieve the pressure on the public healthcare system in the long run by regulating individual indemnity hospital insurance and offering tax deduction as an incentive. According to the survey by AXA Hong Kong², over 80% of Hong Kong people consider participating in VHIS; most of them find individual benefits such as tax deduction and reduced premium especially attractive. Furthermore, around 50% of respondents welcomed the feature of “no lifetime benefit limit” and coverage extension to "unknown pre-existing conditions", which clearly reflects a high demand for expanding protection on "unknown pre-existing conditions" and "existing chronic illness" from the public.