Think tank urges health benefits for middle-aged
One of Hong Kong’s most prominent public policy think tanks urged the government to sponsor physical checkups for the middle-aged population and provide medical allowances for chronically ill members of that demographic.
The proposal, advanced by Our Hong Kong Foundation on Tuesday, included a one-off subsidy of a total of HK$250 million and about HK$580 million annual recurrent expenditure.
The organization suggested that the government hand out HK$1,000 for anyone over 45 as a one-off dole to pay for physical checkups to identify possible chronic diseases.
For people diagnosed with or already suffering hypertension and diabetes, the two most prevalent chronic diseases in Hong Kong, the foundation recommends an annual medical subsidy of HK$3,040 so that patients may seek private medical services, relieving some of the pressure on the city’s overburdened public hospitals.
The city’s population projections reveal that by 2064, the median age of Hong Kong citizens will likely reach 53.5 years, with more than one in every three aged 65 or older. The age dependency ratio eventually will increase to a level where 1,000 working people will support 658 elderly. That would represent a doubling of the 2014 ratio.
Government statistics show that the percentage of Hong Kong people suffering at least one chronic illness jumps sharply for people over 45.
Yeoh Eng-kiong, director of the Jockey Club School of Public Health and Primary Care at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that people aged between 45 and 64 were six times more likely to suffer from at least one chronic disease than those aged between 14 and 25, and the likelihood for those aged over 65 years was 18 times higher.
Yeoh, who also led the foundation’s research that became the basis for the proposal, said that 70 percent of chronic diseases were preventable.
The writers of the report suggested the government introduce a Chronic Disease Management Voucher Scheme, to supplement the prevailing Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme.
The prevailing voucher scheme, launched in 2009, has been raised from HK$250 a year to HK$2,000 for people over 70 to help them seek medical treatment.
Given the current 3.5 million people aged over 45, the foundation suggested that the implementation of the scheme should be introduced in phases over the next three years, firstly to cover those from low-income households.
“Consider it as an investment,” said Yeoh. “The return will lower the cost from allocating labor and financial resources for old age chronic care in the future.”