The Elderly Health Care Voucher Pilot Scheme was initially launched on 1 January 2009 for a period of three years to try out a new concept of enhancing the provision of primary care service for the elderly. Under the Pilot Scheme, five vouchers of $50 each were provided to each elder aged 70 or above annually. The Pilot Scheme aims to supplement existing public healthcare services (e.g. General Out-patient and Specialist Out-patient Clinics) by providing financial incentive for elders to choose private healthcare services that best suit their health needs, including preventive care. It is in addition to the existing public healthcare services, which will continue to be made available to elders after the introduction of Elderly Health Care Voucher. By encouraging elders to seek consultation and establish a closer relationship with private doctors who are familiar with their health conditions, it also helps promote the concept of family doctor.
Based on the result of Interim Review, the Government decided to extend the Pilot Scheme and increased the annual voucher amount for each eligible elder from $250 to $500 in 2012.
In response to the positive feedback, the Government increased the annual voucher amount to $1,000 in 2013. From 2014, the Scheme has been converted from a pilot project into a recurrent programme and the annual voucher amount has also been increased to $2,000. Eligible elders could continue to carry forward and accumulate unspent vouchers, subject to a ceiling of $4,000 to encourage elders to make good use of the vouchers for primary care services including both curative and preventive care. Since 1 July 2014, the face value of each voucher has been lowered from $50 to $1.
To alleviate the burden of medical expenses on the elderly and their families and to enhance health promotion and primary care, the Government has lowered the eligibility age for the Scheme from 70 to 65 with effect from 1 July 2017.
In 2018 and 2019, apart from the annual voucher amount of $2,000, each eligible elder was also provided with an additional voucher amount of $1,000 on a one-off basis on 8 June 2018 and 26 June 2019 respectively. The accumulation limit of the vouchers was increased to $5,000 on 8 June 2018, and further increased to $8,000 with effect from 26 June 2019 as a regular measure.
Besides, in view of the outcome of a review on the Scheme in 2019, a cap of $2,000 every two years on the voucher amount that can be spent by each elder on optometry services has been introduced with effect from 26 June 2019 to encourage the use of vouchers on different primary healthcare services.