Motion on “Combating Insurance Frauds” (2015.01.21)

MR CHAN KIN-POR (in Cantonese): Deputy President, I thank the 12 Members for speaking on the motion. Now I would like to give a response.

A Member has pointed out that not all work-related injury cases involve insurance frauds and private detectives are hired by insurance companies to harass workers. I must emphasize that the insurance sector targets at combating frauds, not workers injured at work. On the contrary, insurance companies will exert their best to help the workers. For instance, under the “Multidisciplinary Orthopedics Rehabilitation Empowerment Program” organized jointly by The Hong Kong Federation of Insurers and The Chinese University of Hong Kong, workers injured at work are encouraged to seek proper treatment at an early date, thus speeding up the progress of their recovery by 100%. In fact, insurance companies will hire private detectives to investigate extreme fraud cases only because it is very costly to hire private detectives to gather evidence. Only when confronted with a small handful of extreme fraud cases will insurance companies be compelled to hire private detectives.

The trade union knows very well the gravity of work-related injury frauds. Although quite a number of Members of this Council represent workers, only Mr TANG Ka-piu from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions was willing to point out the fact. His belief that more than 60% of injured workers were touted by syndicates engaging in champerty proves that the problem is already very acute. I hope other Members representing workers can support combating insurance frauds, or else only the fraudsters will ultimately stand to benefit, and the overall labour interest will definitely be undermined.

A Member has described the setting up of an inter-departmental task force as making a fuss about nothing and said that the prosecution figures are low. Currently, the prosecution figures are really not that high, but it actually reflects the difficulty in instituting prosecutions because the collection of evidence is difficult. Hence, it is imperative for us to pinpoint the root of the problem and plug the loopholes. Syndicates engaging in champerty are now exploiting the loopholes in law, systems, and so on, in committing insurance frauds. Hence, the problem involves sick leave certificates and departments responsible for legal aid, labour matters, law enforcement, and so on. In view of the large number of departments involved, how can the task be performed properly in the absence of an inter-departmental task force?

A Member has queried why the decisions of medical practitioners to issue sick leave certificates should be called into question. In fact, places all over the world where labour compensation is offered similarly face the problem of abuse of sick leave certificates. Various places have their own ways to tackle this problem. Kicking out people seeking to obtain sick leave certificates by fraud can enable medical practitioners to focus their attention on treating genuine patients. Actually, they should be more than pleased.

Members should understand that the problems of exaggeration of injuries and abuse of sick leave certificates have become most acute. Members speaking in favour of the Hospital Authority (HA) and the Legal Aid Department (LAD) would only pave the way for the fraudsters. Moreover, the HA will continue to act in an arrogant manner and, using privacy as an excuse, abuse the issuance of sick leave certificates and even refuse to attend Legislative Council meetings. Doing so will only condone syndicates engaging in champerty to continue cheating the LAD of public coffers, with the solicitors’ fees incurred ranging from hundreds of thousand dollars to millions of dollars.

Members must understand that frauds have already spun out of control. As a result, insurance premiums have continued to rise to such an extent that they become hardly affordable to employers as well as taxi and public light bus companies. In the end, the employers will be reluctant to recruit hands or they will compel their workers to turn into self-employed persons or simply wind up their business. Not only will the workers become victims eventually, but members of the public will also have to bear even more exorbitant transport expenses.

Even if this motion proposed by me is not passed, the Government is still obliged to set up an inter-departmental task force to seriously deal with frauds in order to do justice to the public and the employers. I hope the directly-elected Members can direct at the issue but not the person and refrain from voting against the motion just because I said that some workers had obtained compensation for work-related injuries by fraud and a small number of lawyers and medical practitioners had taken part in insurance frauds. Even if an inter-departmental task force is set up by the Government, it will only combat unlawful acts. May I draw Members’ attention to the fact that there is no need for an upright person to worry as the Government is targeting fraudsters only? I hope Members can understand this.

Deputy President, after listening to the speeches delivered by some directly-elected Members last week, I believe the chance of this motion being passed is slim. Although I am wearing a red tie, I am afraid it makes no difference to the matter. (Laughter) So, I would like to say a few words to Hong Kong people.

Fellow citizens, if this uncontroversial motion that calls on the Government to combat frauds is not passed in this Council, thereby resulting in the continuation of the phenomenon of “fraudsters cheating money, people footing the bill” and victimization of employers and the general public, I believe Hong Kong people should really consider seriously how to vote in the coming District Council and Legislative Council elections. Thank you, fellow citizens.

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