Public versus Private Medical Coverage
57% of the people living in Hong Kong have no medical insurance according to the Census and Statistics Department. This may be due to a shortage of spare time to organize cover or due to the fact that people just don’t understand why they might need it.
In Hong Kong, the residents who have a Hong Kong identity card are very lucky and can use the public healthcare system at a heavily subsidized rate. Typically it costs just HKD$100 for a visit to A&E or to stay in a ward for the night.
Currently the population of Hong Kong is 7.2 million and there are only 27,000 public hospital beds available. This means that if you need additional care, surgery or specialized appointments you may have arduous waits until you actually see a doctor or have your surgery. Currently the average wait to see a specialist in the public healthcare system is 7 months.
As the population in Hong Kong increases from people getting older, immigration and medical tourists from China the healthcare system is showing signs of strain.
Public health establishments have reached, if not exceeded their maximum capacity which is limiting their capability to administer appropriate medical care in acceptable time limits.
For example, now, as soon as you find out your pregnant you have to book your bed for delivery otherwise all beds may be fully booked and you have no choice but to go private.
The government held talks as far back as 2008 to discuss the strain on the healthcare system and how to tackle this. One of the ways they have tried to combat this strain is by charging women who do not have a permanent Hong Kong ID card to pay US$5,000 for a 3 day, 2 night maternity package at public hospitals.
There are 12 private hospitals in Hong Kong, in 2010 these private hospitals provided 11% of hospital beds and served 21% of the total inpatients in Hong Kong. Private healthcare is becoming more and more popular to expats as they are becoming more aware of the benefits it provides.