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Chinese pay more for medical services
(People's Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-16 13:43

The Chinese people's medical expenditure kept rising steadily between 1999 and 2003 as a result of growing cost of medicine and medical examinations and treatment, according to the latest statistics of the Ministry of Health Saturday.

The cost for government-sponsored outpatient and inpatient services increased by 8.2 percent and 7.8 percent respectively from 1999 to 2003 on a yearly basis.

In 1999, outpatient services cost 79 yuan (9.5 US dollars) per person on average, while inpatient services cost 2,891 yuan (348 dollars).

The cost rose to 108.2 yuan (13 dollars) and 3,910.7 yuan (471 dollars) in 2003, according to the ministry.

To curb the fast rising cost for the benefit of the general public, the ministry is mulling over a series of measures to cut medicine prices, the difference between medicine wholesale and retail prices, the charge on examination and treatment involving large medical facilities, and the cost of medical materials.

The ministry, however, noted that the cost of medical consulting, diagnosis and treatment services may be raised.

China is currently facing the challenge of low accessibility to health services. Nearly 49 percent of Chinese cannot afford to see doctors when they fall ill and 29.6 percent are not hospitalized whenever they should be, according to a survey, the result of which was released last month by the ministry.

Factors behind include the country's lack of medical resources, imbalance distribution of the resources, low coverage of the medicare system, fast rise of medical costs, and inadequate government input, said the ministry.

China has 22 percent of the world's total population but only 2 percent of the world's medical resources. Among the medical institutions, 80 percent are in cities and only 20 percent in rural areas. The imbalance of resource distribution makes it ever harder for rural residents to have access to needed medical care.

The ministry has decided to improve medical services in the rural areas this year and expand the medicare system to cover more rural residents.

China's per capita cash income of rural households for the first three quarters of 2004 was 2,109.5 yuan (254 dollars), compared with the per capita disposable income of urban households that stood at 7,072 yuan (852 dollars), according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

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