Aging problems deserve more attention
Our Hong Kong Foundation on Tuesday published a study on Hong Kong’s aging society, with some practical recommendations including distributing healthcare vouchers to people aged above 45 for health checks and subsidizing members of that demographic with one or more chronic conditions. There is no denying that Hong Kong is an aging society, which enjoys the distinction of having the longest life expectancy in the world. We have many reasons to be proud of Hong Kong’s economic success but cannot neglect the very real and present challenges posed by our aging population. Admittedly it is an “old story”. But aging problems are becoming more urgent than ever and deserve more attention as time flies and the community “ages” further.
The Hong Kong SAR has been coping with the ever apparent problem of aging society since its birth in 1997 and it is no exaggeration to say the aging population may overwhelm the young SAR with all the extra cost in care for senior citizens if it fails to take remedial measures immediately. As much as the philosophy of governance is allergic to the prospect of a welfare society, the government is obligated to bear some of the costs of aging. That is why the foundation has recommended to the government a Chronic Disease Management Voucher (CDMV) scheme for over-45s.
Health is the biggest issue that comes with aging. People tend to think aging is not a problem but aging without good health is. The bodies of older people, after working for half a century or more, tend to develop problems that make them suffer but do not kill them immediately. The most prevalent chronic diseases are high blood pressure and diabetes. As the government does not have the resources to help over-45s cope with all kinds of chronic diseases they may be suffering from, it therefore makes most sense to focus on the most commonly seen. The proposed scheme could also help older patients avoid the long waits for public medical services and at the same time lessen the pressure on such services.
Government assistance in the form of the CDMV scheme is not expected to solve the aging problem for good but should help ease the financial burden of many over-45s and retirees. This is particularly true if the subsidized health checkups can help citizens prevent or identify chronic diseases at an early stage, therefore reducing their future medical expenses. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Some may be concerned about additional fiscal pressure on the government. But the long-term benefits will more than compensate for the short-term additional expenditure.