China's health care system searching for remedy
Updated: 2006-10-06 14:14 To quell rising medicine prices, China's National Development and Reform
Commission (NDRC) has issued its 19th medicine price cap at the end of this
August, which involves 99 antimicrobial drugs. It is estimated that the annual
saving from the price cut for patients can reach 4.3 billion yuan (about 538
However, critics also argued that the cuts may not provide a cure. Prof. Li
Ling observed. "They are far from a quick-fix solution, and could even
exacerbate the tendency to overprescribe, " she said.
She said the previous price cuts only resulted in some drug manufacturers
ratcheting up prices after altering product names and packaging. Some hospitals
and clinics raise the costs of medical services, turned a blind eye to
government standards or even turned down low-priced drugs.
She urged the central government to bolster spending and initiate a radical
restructuring of the health system in a bid to restore fairness and quality
service. "Health care has to be accessible and affordable," she added.
Ge Yanfeng believed this is attainable for China. According to his
estimation, a new health care system which is accessible and affordable to all
will cost 150 billion to 200 billion yuan (19 billion to 25 billion dollars),
which equals five to seven percent of the national revenue or one to
one-and-a-half percent of GDP in 2005.
The NDRC announced this September that the Chinese government has made
improving health care a priority, promising to bring virtually every citizen
within the health care insurance framework by 2010. A new cooperative medical
program was launched on a trial basis in 2003 in the rural areas with 156
million farmers covered so far.
The program calls for every individual to contribute ten yuan (1.2
dollars) a year to a special fund, to be subsidized another ten yuan (1.2
dollars) each by the local government and the central government as well.
Eventually, farmers should be able to draw from it to cover their health
Experts from Beijing University, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the
Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health surveyed 70,769 farmers in
257 pilot counties of 29 provinces and regions from March to July this year. The
survey showed that the cooperative medical program has helped reduce the medical
expenses proportion in farmers' average annual income, down from 89 percent in
2003 to 65 percent in 2004.