The Government released the Consultation Report on the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS) in January 9, which summarises the consultation outcomes and maps out the way forward. The Government will implement the VHIS through a non-legislative framework, and that the Minimum Requirements and related proposals will be refined.
A spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) said, "As revealed by the consultation outcomes, there was broad support for the concept and policy objectives of the VHIS in general. Many considered it a positive step towards redressing the balance of the public-private healthcare sectors. Many also concurred that the proposed Minimum Requirements approach will help ensure that those who have taken out such insurance can make use of the protection when they require medical diagnosis and treatment."
The Government, in its public consultation, proposed that insurers selling and/or effecting individual hospital insurance would be required to comply with a set of Minimum Requirements prescribed by the Government. The Minimum Requirements are introduced to improve the accessibility and continuity of individual hospital insurance, enhance the quality and promote the transparency and certainty of insurance protection.
"There was support for most of the Minimum Requirements, including guaranteed renewal, no 'lifetime benefit limit', coverage of hospitalisation and prescribed ambulatory procedures, coverage of prescribed advanced diagnostic imaging tests and non-surgical cancer treatments, budget certainty, standardised policy terms and conditions, premium transparency, minimum benefit limits, cost-sharing restrictions and coverage of pre-existing conditions.
"As regards the proposals of guaranteed acceptance with premium loading cap and portable insurance policy, some respondents noted that they would have to be underpinned by a High Risk Pool (HRP) to be established with injection of public funding to enable high-risk individuals to purchase private hospital insurance. Some respondents questioned the concept of using public money to help such high-risk individuals to purchase private hospital insurance, and the financial sustainability of the proposed HRP in general," the spokesman said.
In response to feedback collected during the Public Consultation, the Government will refine the Minimum Requirements and related proposals. Notably, given the public's diverse views on the proposed establishment of the HRP, the two Minimum Requirements of "guaranteed acceptance" and "portable insurance policy" would be dealt with at a later stage together with the HRP.
The Government will also implement the VHIS through a non-legislative framework, which has the merits of reducing the unintended impact of a brand new regulatory regime on the insurance industry, whilst benefiting the public with enhanced protection as soon as possible.
The spokesman added, "FHB will issue and update a set of VHIS practice guidelines, based on the proposed Minimum Requirements, in consultation with relevant stakeholders. Moreover, the independent Insurance Authority will be invited to issue a Guidance Note to provide guidance on various aspects of underwriting individual hospital insurance business, under which insurers would be recommended to comply with the VHIS practice guidelines to be issued by FHB.
"FHB will establish a VHIS Office to certify those products that are VHIS-compliant, which would be eligible for tax deduction. We aim to finalise the VHIS practice guidelines and details of the tax deduction arrangement in 2018."
The Government conducted a public consultation on VHIS from December 15, 2014, to April 16, 2015. A total of 600 written submissions, comprising 478 from individuals and 122 from organisations, were received during the consultation period. The Consultation Report on VHIS can be downloaded from the VHIS website, and will be available for collection at district offices from January 16 onwards.