The government has formulated a framework for reforming the healthcare system and will soon present it to the people for soliciting their opinion, a senior health official said Thursday.
"All people in urban and rural areas will enjoy basic medical care and health services by 2020," Vice-Minister of Health Gao Qiang said at a joint news briefing on the sidelines of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Also present were the ministers of education, labor and social security, and civil affairs; and the vice-minister of construction.
Gao did not elaborate on the plan, but said it centers on the "coordinated and parallel" reform of the medical services, insurance and supplies systems.
"While increasing government responsibility and spending, we will also encourage greater participation of private capital from both home and abroad in the sector," he said.
Increasing public criticism of high medical costs and a string of hospital scandals have prompted the ministry to launch the reform which involves 16 ministries and commissions including the National Development and Reform Commission.
Eight organizations - the World Health Organization, McKinsey, the World Bank, the Development Research Center of the State Council and four Chinese universities - have submitted proposals and the final plan is said to be a combination of the suggestions.
The reform covers a wide range of subjects including insurance, drug manufacturing, distribution and supervision, and legislation of medical management.
"Around 1.5 billion people will benefit from the system at that time," Gao said, factoring in the expected rise in the nation's population in the coming years.
"To this end, we will have a lot of work to do. But we are confident the goal is achievable."
Medical reforms began in the early 1990s when the system under which governments and State-run enterprises covered most medical expenses of urban Chinese was dismantled.
Medical insurance now covers most urban residents but rural dwellers have found it hard to get access to healthcare.
"I want to inform you here that the government will increase subsidies for rural people in implementing the new cooperative medical scheme," Gao said.
The rural cooperative medical insurance system, initiated in 2003 to offer farmers basic healthcare, covered 720 million rural residents, or 82.8 percent of the country's rural population, by the end of June this year, according to the Ministry of Health.
At the same briefing:
Education Minister Zhou Ji said practical measures will be worked out to help poor students complete higher education.
Vice-minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing pledged that every effort will be made to stabilize the housing market and help provide affordable homes for low- and middle income families. He also said a crackdown on speculation in the housing market will continue.
Labor and Social Security Minister Tian Chengping said measures are being worked out to provide social insurance to migrant workers.