Five-year plan to ease individuals' health care costs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 March, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing has pledged to ease the financial burden of health care on individuals by 2015 through a series of reforms, including increasing government spending.

Each individuals' share of medical bills will be cut to below 30 per cent, according to the 12th five-year plan on enacting health care reforms, which was published on Thursday.

Most mainlanders have been paying more than half the cost since health care reforms in the 1990s removed access to what had been an almost free service.

In 2001, mainlanders were paying as much as 60 per cent of health care costs. But in the past five years, reforms and the growth of the insurance sector has seen individuals' share of the costs fall to about 40 per cent. Last year, that declined to 35.5 per cent.

Beijing has promised to increase spending on health care at a faster rate than general government spending.

'The problem of an expensive and inaccessible health care service will be effectively eased,' says the plan. The five-year plan is the second phase of a health care reform programme that started in April 2009.

It aims to establish a health care system that will ensure universal access to basic medical services by 2020.

The past three years have seen a rise in the number of insurers offering basic medical insurance schemes, as well as the establishment of a system controlling the purchase and supply of 'essential drugs' and the scrapping of surcharges.

But the five-year plan says the difficulty of pushing ahead with reforms has 'increased considerably' due to structural conflicts and vested interests.

Little has been achieved in reforming public hospitals in the past three years because of an inability to change the profit-driven nature of the sector.

Public hospitals are allowed to impose surcharges of up to 15 per cent on prescribed drugs and are left to generate income on their own.

As such, they prescribe excessive tests and drugs because the government funds just 10 per cent of their costs.

For the first time, the five-year plan states clearly and in detail where public hospitals will generate their earnings from after scrapping their drug surcharges.

The plan promises to make local governments responsible for the management of public hospitals and to change their profit-driven structure.

To make up for hospitals' loss of income, Beijing will increase spending and adjust the prices of medical services.

Consultation fees, operation fees and nursing fees will also be raised to reflect the reasonable costs of medical services.

According to the plan, reforms of county-level public hospitals will be the priority, and they should be able to handle 90 per cent of patients.

The problem of an expensive and inaccessible health care service will be effectively eased The government's 12th five-year plan on reforming the heath care sector to make it cheaper for all mainlanders to get basic medical services. The plan also states clearly and in detail where public hospitals will derive their earnings after scrapping their drug surcharges


Government insurance will cover this percentage of medical costs for eight kinds of serious diseases by the end of this year