The Ministry of Finance may inject more than 100 billion yuan in the health system in response to President Hu Jintao's call last week for quicker reform to provide universal medical care. The cash boost is expected to be spent on the ineffective health insurance system, under which almost 45 per cent of urban and 80 per cent of rural people have no access to basic medical care, according to the China Economic Daily. Analysts say Mr Hu's speech was a signal that the central government was going to focus its effort on reforming medical insurance to ensure primary health care for everyone, instead of overhauling the whole health system, which would involve the more complex hospital and pharmaceutical systems. At a Politburo meeting last Monday, Mr Hu said the central government must play a bigger role in providing health care as China seeks to narrow the gap in health-care coverage between rich and poor. 'We must uphold the public welfare character of public health care, deepen reform of the medical system, strengthen government responsibility and have strict oversight and control,' Mr Hu was quoted as saying by Xinhua. 'Hu's speech indicates a new way of thinking on medical reform,' Zhao Jie, from the Central Party School, was quoted as saying. 'Which is to tackle the most fundamental, most urgent problems first: to make sure everybody's basic medical needs are satisfied.' That did not mean Beijing was going to scrap plans to reform the hospital management and medicine pricing system, Mr Zhao said. 'It's a matter of setting priorities.' The medical reform plan, launched in 1997 and yet to be fully implemented, covers health insurance, hospitals and pharmacies. But the attempt to tackle all three directions simultaneously has had a deterrent effect on the whole reform process, Mr Zhao said. At the meeting, Mr Hu mentioned the need to keep reforming strained hospitals and clinics which relied heavily on medical fees and whose services were often unaffordable for the poor. Mr Hu also promised to accelerate the expansion of rural health care, long neglected by cash-strapped local governments focused on rapid economic growth.