Friday, 26 December 2008


Report: China plans to issue new medical reform plan in January

BEIJING, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) -- China's long-awaited medical
reform plan, which aims at providing universal medical
service to 1.3 billion people, is likely to be issued in
January, Friday's 21st Century Business Herald reported.

Five supplementary plans on medical insurance, basic
medicine, grassroots medical service, public health service
and public hospital reform will be issued at the same time,
the newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying.

Growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, a lack of
access to affordable medical services, poor doctor-patient
relationship and low medical insurance coverage compelled
the government to launch the new round of reforms.

On Oct. 14, the National Development and Reform Commission
(NDRC) issued a draft plan on its website for public
debate. The commission received more than 35,000
suggestions in one month.

A health official told Xinhua that the announcement of the
new plan in January is "likely". "A revised version based
on the public feedbacks has been submitted to the State
Council," said the official, who declined to be named.

According to the newspaper, "the new version didn't have
significant difference from the old one."

In the draft, the government promised to set up a "safe,
effective, convenient and affordable" medical system that
would cover all urban and rural residents by 2020.

It clarifies government's responsibility by saying that it
plays a dominant role in providing public health and basic
medical service. Central and local governments are required
to increase health funding to ease financial burden of

The draft, written by a team of officials and experts from
16 departments, including the Ministry of Health and the
NDRC, has been criticized as being "too general" and "full
of empty principles".

The five new supplementary plans are believed to outline
specific measures. Among them, the one on the building of a
basic medicine system and reforms of state-run hospitals
are the most important, the newspaper quoted the source as

The basic medicine system includes a catalogue of necessary
drugs that would be produced and distributed under
government control and supervision, according to the draft

The draft plan did not outline clear measures for state-run
hospital reform. But it said government should increase
funding to public hospitals to improve their services.

Insufficient government funding resulted in deficits for
public health institutions, thus opening doors for
hospitals to generate their own revenue by raising fees and
aggressively selling drugs.

"Reform of state-run hospitals is a very complicated and
difficult project," Bai Chong'en, a professor with the
Tsinghua University, said.

"I think the government should pilot the reform in some
places and then work out a reform plan based on China's
realities," he said. Editor: Wang Hongjiang

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