Health Care in China: Losing Patients

The Economist takes a look at China’s system–from changes that occurred after the Chinese government enacted market-driven policies to the upcoming reforms expected to be revealed this March when Parliament opens its annual session.

Startling economic growth in China has not been matched by similar improvements in health care. The cost of treatment is becoming ever more prohibitive for the poor. Government spending is meagre. But nearly three years after declaring the system a failure, officials are at last getting ready to unveil a plan to fix it.
AFP It will cost them

Some Chinese press reports say the long-awaited and much-debated reform plan is likely to be revealed at the annual session of China’s parliament, which opens on March 5th. The outline is already clear: a stronger role for government, including more money from the central budget, and a drive towards universal health insurance. Changes are already in train.

The reforms reverse the market-driven policies of much of the past two decades. The outbreak in 2003 of SARS, an often fatal respiratory disease, made the government realise what a mess the health-care system had become. Government hospitals and clinics, starved of funding, had turned to raising money (and boosting ill-paid doctors’ salaries) by prescribing ever more expensive treatment and diagnostic procedures. With the collapse and privatisation of state-owned enterprises, the vast majority of citizens had been left with no insurance. Many began avoiding even desperately needed treatment.

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