In China, Too, a Health-care System in Disarray

In the Washington Post, Steven Mufson reports on government efforts to reform a health care system that has left many uninsured or with poor quality care:

China’s health-care system is in disarray, a side effect of the market reforms that have spurred private enterprise and rapid growth since 1980. Before then, state-owned companies offered cradle-to-grave care, part of a system based on danwei, or work units, that provided health, education, pensions and other benefits. But as the economy has grown more diverse, an increasing number of Chinese have had to fend for themselves, with only a porous government insurance program to help.

As U.S. lawmakers engage in a tense debate over health-care reform, Chinese authorities, too, are attempting to fix their system. Over the past five years, the government has tried to provide coverage to more of its 1.4 billion people. But even people covered by a minimal health insurance program are often left with big hospital bills and must pay for most outpatient services and medication. More than 300 million people do not have any health insurance.

In a country once committed to erasing class differences, the gap in the quality of care has been steadily growing, too. Peking University People’s Hospital, for example, has computerized charts, GE scanners, top-flight doctors and a deluxe ward where the wealthy can pay extra for private suites. But community clinics in most cities or rural areas tend to be understaffed and poorly equipped.

Read more about China’s health care reform, via CDT.


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