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Drive to slash med bills

12-02-2010 09:56 BJT

The government announced it is working on a measure to make sure that by 2015, nearly all Chinese citizens would enjoy basic medical treatment without paying more than 30 percent of the cost, Zhang Mao, a vice minister of health, said recently.

To achieve this goal, he said that within the upcoming 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the government intends to boost support for an out of pocket scheme and control the cost of medical services. Meanwhile, a series of measures will be implemented to tackle the shortage of talent in the health industry.

According to Zhang, China is working on a medical insurance system that could resem-ble universal healthcare and it could cover 1.25 billion people, the majority of the nation's 1.3 billion people. While all urban citizens are covered under the urban health insurance system, the New Rural Cooperative Medical System that took effect in 2003 covers 832 million people in rural areas, or 95.9 percent of all farmers.

However, experts said the cost of covering farmers is much lower than the cost of covering urban citizens.

Zheng Xueqian, a deputy director of China Hospital Rights Association, told the Global Times Wednesday that many urban citizens now pay less than 30 percent of their medical bills, while most farmers pay a much higher proportion.

"There are still lots of farmers who dare not go to a hospital due to the high medical cost," said Xu Yi, a doctor at Peking University First Hospital.

"If farmers could enjoy the same medical insurance as urban residents, no one would think healthcare is expensive," Xu said.

In order to expand the healthcare coverage, vice minister Zhang said that public spending on the health sector will be boosted to 6 percent of the GDP by 2015, a 1.5 percentage increase from the current level.

The basic medicine system, which was designed to manage rising drug prices last year, will be implemented across the country by 2012, Zhang said.

"By the end of 2015, the people will find it easier to see a doctor both at grassroots clinics and in big hospitals. They will also find medical bills more affordable and the number of people pushed into poverty because of medical bills will be greatly reduced," Zhang said.

However, experts noted that the goal only refers to basic medical treatment. For treatment that requires some advanced medical technology, such as fibrous skeleton of the heart and certain types of dialysis, patients would have to dig into their pockets.

"The definition of the basic medical treatment is still not clear in China. Currently, it is based on what the national finance can undertake," Zheng added.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Global Times

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