AL Plenary | Health: Tam disagrees with mandatory insurance system

The Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, hinted that no plans are under imminent consideration regarding the establishment of a mandatory medical insurance system in Macau. However, the secretary still allowed for the possibility of a discussion among the public regarding the medical insurance system.

Lawmakers Si Ka Lon and Song Pek Kei have proposed the Legislative Assembly (AL) debate the establishment of a medical insurance system.

“Our colleagues are confident in improving the medical service. [This ability] has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). If our medical service is bad, how can the average life expectancy reach 83.3 years?” questioned Alexis Tam, adding that regarding the “recent flu, we handled it very well, we did not create a scarcity [of vaccines or care]  among the residents.”

The secretary noted that 97 percent of the patients at the Hospital Conde S. Januário (CHCSJ) are receiving free medical service. “Our medical protection is enough,” Tam claimed.

When asked by Leong Sun Iok about the possible medical cooperation between Macau and other Greater Bay Area cities, Tam pointed out that due to the differences between the mainland and Macau’s medical system, such cooperation would be considered and discussed carefully before the Macau government reaches a conclusion.

When replying to Wong Kit Cheng, Tam noted that the Macau government is paying MOP14,600 per resident per year for medical services, and that the total amount of such expenditure represents ten percent of public expenditure by the Macau’s government.

“We think it’s not bad,” said Tam, further claiming that this governmental medical expenditure has a “high efficiency.”

The secretary compared Macau government’s expenditure on its residents’ medical services with that of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

He noted that Macau’s government covers 75 percent of residents’ medical services and according to him, this is more than what the other aforementioned governments are paying for their residents.

“What we need now is to enhance the level of our own medical team,” declared Tam.

Tam then said that the government can bring the medical insurance system to the public for discussion.

Agnes Lam questioned Tam regarding how much both the public and the government would pay for the insurance if Macau establishes a medical insurance system.

“Among our colleagues, none of us agrees with the medical insurance system,” revealed Tam, adding that such systems have many flaws.

As noted by Tam, Macau residents on average see a doctor 9.7 times per year, which is higher than in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Our medical supply is really enough. We spent little money and provide so many services,” said Tam, adding “we can shorten the waiting time, and we can use more resources to hire more medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, and we can purchase better medical equipment.”

Lam remarked however that “we still need more data to explain whether the current medical system is the best.”

Au Kam San hopes the government “[will] not completely deny other possible insurance systems just because it [the government] is completely satisfied with the current medical protection system.”

Including Si Ka Lon and Zheng Anting, many lawmakers voiced their opinions regarding Macau’s medical efficiency, waiting time for medical treatment, and the high pressure medical professionals face due to their scarcity.

Si Ka Lon also questioned whether the government can use part of the money it is currently using for the public’s medical services to instead buy medical insurance for residents.

As with many other lawmakers, Zheng Anting expressed the hope the government will exert more effort in shortening waiting times for medical treatment.

Mak Soi Kun suggested the government outsource some of the public hospitals’ services to private sectors, and to give more money to senior citizens from the government’s cash handout.

José Pereira Coutinho voiced his belief that if the cost for the medical insurance system is low, the government can carry out an experiment in regards to it.

Tam, replying to all the lawmakers, noted that the medical insurance system is worth discussion.

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