Due to a movement made by the Voluntary Health Insurance Scheme (VHIS), various insurance companies in Hong Kong will expand its services. Generally, this means coverage for people with minor pre-existing medical conditions.

The program, which was launched last April, saw the VHIS extend its utility, albeit to a limited extent, to patients who can prove to have no prior knowledge of their underlying ailment. This is a major development both in the Hong Kong insurance and healthcare scene, considering that a majority of private health insurers do not consider these types of illnesses as part of their range of services.

However, it won’t be long before the city providers follow suit. Alexander Chiu believes that Hong Kong’s providers will soon include mild known pre-existing illnesses, although with higher costs. Chiu, who is the medical director of health at AXA Hong Kong considers that demand is not met by policies that have already been established, as the new VHIS system only covers pre-existing ailments that have yet been diagnosed. Chiu also believes that many are willing to buy into health insurance, but are unable to do so because they are limited by their conditions.

VHIS, which is endorsed by the Hong Kong government, was conceptualized to rally for healthcare. It was made to encourage citizens to heavily invest in their future state of health, should a necessity rise to the occasion. Overshadowed by mostly a geriatric population and a slowdown in government investment, Hong Kong aims to expand on this concept to relieve a convoluted public hospital system.

VHIS promises to provide coverage for individuals until they reach a hundred years old and hopes to cater to about five million Hong Kong citizens who do not have any form of private health insurance.

To be made certain of a pre-existing condition means that the patient must not have been given a diagnosis prior to carrying the effects of the disease. A wide example of these pre-existing conditions covers a number of diseases from non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases to brain arteriovenous malformation, both of which takes years to form without any form of symptoms.

VHIS differs from the “Obamacare” of the West, which was developed by the previous administration of the US. “Obamacare” covers ALL pre-existing conditions, and its costs are distributed across the areas that are insured.

Chan Kin-por, a member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, said that recent years have been more accepting of clients with pre-existing conditions.

“Insurers (have) been willing to offer coverage excluding certain diseases directly or closely related to the pre-existing condition, sometimes at a higher premium depending on the case,” he said.

However, the endgame is still a big question. A long term solution to coverage for chronic diseases will need the Hong Kong government to gather more funds to help the statistics with high-risk individuals who have pre-existing conditions.