China to reduce people's financial burden on healthcare

Updated: 2010-12-01 13:30
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BEIJING - The Chinese government will alleviate the financial burden on individuals for medical treatment to ensure that by the end of 2015. the patient will pay no more than 30 percent of the total cost of treatment, vice-minister of Health Zhang Mao said recently in an interview with Xinhua News Agency.

The government has invested an "unprecedented" 500 billion yuan ($74.9 billion) in healthcare since the new round of medical reforms were launched in April last year, particularly helping grassroots medical institutions, Zhang added.

The Chinese government pledged last year to invest 850 billion yuan in the Chinese healthcare system over three years.

The proportion of government funding in the nation's health system increased from 17 percent in 2006 to 27 percent in 2009 while that coming from the individual dropped from 52 percent to 38 percent in the same period, according to the vice minister.

"We hope individuals will pay less over the next five years, and 30 percent and below is a reasonable level," Zhang added.

China kicked off its much-anticipated health reforms to fix the ailing medical system and to ensure fair and affordable health services for all of its 1.3 billion citizens.

The reforms aim to "solve the pressing problems that have prompted complaints from the public," according to a document concerning the reforms, referring to criticisms that the Chinese healthcare system is difficult to access and increasingly unaffordable.

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, governments paid more than 90 percent of the cost of urban residents' healthcare and essentially 100 percent of rural residents' health care.

But when China began its economic reforms in the early 1980s, the system was dismantled as the country switched to a market-oriented healthcare system.

After that, the increased cost of healthcare forced many into poverty and made medical services less affordable for ordinary citizens.

"By the end of 2015, the people will find it easier to see a doctor both at grassroots clinics and big hospitals. They will also find medical bills more affordable and the number of people pushed into poverty because of medical bills greatly reduced," Zhang said.

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During the interview, Zhang also said the health ministry has drawn up a series measures to tackle the shortage of talent in the health field.

He called this shortage of professional healthcare workers a "bottleneck" that impedes the development of the nation's health care system.

He said educational institutions will train more medical professionals especially for grassroots clinics while grassroots medical workers will have more opportunities for training.

Meanwhile, major hospitals will be encouraged to send their doctors to serve in villages and counties and to train those working at grassroots clinics.