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Li calls for further healthcare reforms

Updated: 2012-07-20 13:28
By Shan Juan and Wang Qingyun ( China Daily)

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday urged the country to push forward with medical reform.

The basic public health insurance system has covered both urban and rural areas, but the system to insure people with acute diseases and serious chronic diseases has not yet been established, Li said. He said a person who suffers from such an illness is likely to impose a major financial burden on their whole family.

Li asked medical reformers to cover such diseases under the current public health insurance system.

He also suggested that the insurance industry and the government work together to help people combat such diseases. He said government, individuals and insurance companies can together shoulder the burden of chronic disease.

China is set to build a "relatively sound" public service system and achieve "equalization" in public service supply by 2020, according to the country's first national plan for public services.

The State Council issued the plan, which covers the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15), on Thursday. It specifies the scope of public services and defines standards and operating mechanisms for the provision of services.

The basic public services listed cover eight major sectors - public education, labor and employment services, social security, social services, healthcare, population and family planning services, and housing services, as well as culture and sports.

"It establishes a future trend that each Chinese citizen, regardless of gender, social status, wealth or place of residence, is equally entitled to basic social services, which will be detached as an ultimate goal from the household registration system," Hu Zucai, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a news conference.

Also, "it will help accelerate the transformation of the country's economic growth pattern and boost domestic consumption", he said.

"Promoting the equalization of basic public services is necessary to build a harmonious society and safeguard social fairness and justice," he said.

At present, there are huge gaps in public service supply and access between urban and rural areas, different population groups and regions, Hu said.

For instance, the number of doctors serving every 1,000 people in urban areas is more than twice that in rural areas, according to the Ministry of Health.

To address discrepancies, the government will channel more social resources toward rural areas, poor regions and vulnerable social groups in order to ensure that all people have equal access to basic public services, Hu said.

But he conceded that this would be a long and arduous task. He emphasized that equalization meant "equal opportunity," rather than there being no differences at all.

As a beginning, the plan sets uniform public service standards across the country, he added.But "economically capable areas can expand local service provision or raise its quality according to their own conditions", Hu said.

Nationwide, the total supply of public services remains insufficient and can hardly meet rising public demand, he said.

In response, the government will constantly beef up its efforts to improve basic public services both in quantity and quality and adjust service standards and targets in accordance with real national situation, it said.

However, "services can't be supplied beyond government capabilities", he noted.

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