China plans equitable care8th January 2008
The Chinese government is making another attempt to reform the country's healthcare system, focusing on curbing widespread corruption and malpractice, and broadening access to primary care in the poverty-stricken hinterland.
Health Minister Chen Zhu said the government would double central and local government subsidies for the country's nascent rural cooperative medical insurance system, from 40 yuan (£2.50) to 80 yuan (£5) a person annually.
The increase in funding is part of a push to entend the co-op system to cover the entire 900 million-strong rural population, Chen said.
However, he gave no specific details about how cash-strapped local governments were going to find the money for their portion of the bill, and added that rural residents would be expected to pay double their previous contribution of 10 yuan (about 50p) a year.
The scheme has swelled to include 730 million rural residents, roughly 86% of the rural population in 20 of China's 31 provinces. It works by paying out partial reimbursements of medical bills already paid by contributors.
It paid out around 22 billion yuan (£1.5 billion) in reimbursements during the first three quarters of 2007, relating to 263.3 million medical visits, according to a Health Ministry report issued at the weekend.
Officials say they have made some headway in keeping down soaring medical fees, and point to the successful integration of traditional Chinese medicine services into the national system.
Health Minister Chen has vowed to "extend universal health coverage to all Chinese by 2020", which means, "citizens of any age, sex and profession, or living in any place, are entitled to the same level of medicare".
China has struggled to provide affordable healthcare in the face of a growing rift between rich, urban beneficiaries of the economic boom, and the farming communities in its vast hinterland.
Corruption is rife in the system, from hospital management to pharmaceutical manufacturers. The authorities recently executed the former head of the drugs regulatory body for accepting bribes linked to a series of drug safety scandals.
In an attempt to improve ethics among healthcare professionals, China will begin keeping evaluation records on its 5.27 million medical staff, the ministry said.
The ethics records would be used to evaluate medical staff performance and will be linked to promotion and salaries. But no timetable has yet been outlined for implementation.
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Title: China plans equitable care
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 5254
Date Added: 8th Jan 2008