“Black Clinics” Flourish Amid Health Reform Debate

At Reuters, Hui Li and Ben Blanchard describe “the dark corner of China’s medical system” to which migrant workers are forced to turn for treatment:

A one-room shack with a single, bare light bulb on a non-descript Beijing side street is 29-year-old Chinese migrant worker Zhang Xuefang’s best recourse to medical care.

Not recognized as a Beijing resident, she does not qualify for cheaper healthcare at government hospitals, and her hometown is too far away to take advantage of medical subsidizes there.

Like millions of other migrant workers, Zhang, on whose labor China’s economic boom depends, is forced into a seedy and unregulated world of back ally “black clinics” if she falls ill.

The issue highlights the two-tier nature of China’s overburdened health care system and goes to the heart of a heated debate about how to reform the contentious “hukou” system of household registration, a cornerstone of government policy for decades which essentially legalizes discrimination between urban and rural residents.

As the article notes, there are signs of looming hukou reform: see ‘Hukou Reform in Spotlight at NPC‘ and ‘8 Questions and a Podcast on China’s Urban Billion‘ at CDT.

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