Healthcare: Our Thinking Must Change

(Apple Daily, August 1 2005)

 

Synopsis

Public debate on healthcare reform leads to nowhere because there are 3 key misperceptions with regard to the role of public healthcare: 

3 key misperceptions

  • Private healthcare is expensive and inaccessible yet there is no guarantee of quality of service,
  • Government has all the resources required for dealing with all the healthcare needs for everyone,
  • Most importantly, government is responsible for satisfying the healthcare needs of the people.

Reform means many services will be privatized, thus violating vested interests. This is especially true for frontline doctors now working in Hospital Authority (HA) who want to climb up the HA hierarchical ladder. In fact, some doctors have left the HA in the past few years to practice privately in order to gain the first mover advantage.

HA has crowded out private participation in many areas leaving only expensive and non-essential procedures for the private sector, for example Lasik eye surgery. This creates the misconception that private sector can only provide those kinds of services.

Couples who can afford to would prefer to go to private hospital to deliver their children. The market was created after capacity at public hospitals was saturated and it created a demand for privately provided service. When supply increases at the same pace or even at a faster pace then the increase in demand (given the decrease in birth rate in the past two years) price decreases. Private healthcare does not necessarily need to be expensive.