China invests heavily in building basic medical insurance system [Xinhua]

December 25, 2010

BEIJING, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) — China’s health care reform funds – 850 billion yuan (126 billion U.S. dollars) over three years – were mainly used to build a basic medical insurance system for urban and rural residents, said Minister of Finance Xie Xuren Friday.

Xie made the remarks at the 18th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC), a bimonthly session that began Dec. 20 and will end Dec. 25.

The government in April 2009 unveiled a 850 billion yuan three-year plan for national health care reform.

With the funds, the government promised universal access to basic health insurance, the introduction of an essential drugs system, improved primary health care facilities, equitable access to basic public health services and a pilot reforms for state-run hospitals.

Xie reported that in 2009, the government spent 399.4 billion yuan on health care, with 64.5 billion yuan on the medical insurance system, 24.6 billion yuan on public health services and 21.7 billion yuan on grassroots medical institutions in rural townships and small urban communities.

This year’s medical and health budget was 443.9 billion yuan, Xie said.

By the end of last month, 55.6 billion yuan had been spent on the medical insurance system and 31.6 billion yuan on grass-roots medical institutions, according to statistics from the Ministry of Finance.

Xie said the central government will enhance health care reform, strengthen monitoring on the funds’ disbursement, and supervise local governments allocation of funds.

“We will fulfil the 850 billion yuan plan,” he said.

Thanks to the country’s financial support, some 1.26 billion Chinese are covered by the basic medical insurance system, with 424 millon of them in cities and towns and 835 million in rural areas.

Under the medical insurance system, governments in urban and rural areas this year paid no less than 120 yuan per person per year in subsidies, with about 60 to 75 percent of inpatient medical expenses being reimbursed.

According to Vice Minister of Health Zhang Mao, improving the medical insurance system and decreasing the cost of individuals’ medical treatment helps ensure affordable health services for all people.

Regarding the increased cost of health care, Zhang urged state-run hospitals to seek less profit and stop over-treating.

To make the payment of medical expenses convenient, the government is promoting the use of a one-card system, to allow patients to be reimbursed as soon as possible, Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister for human resources and social security, told lawmakers.

According to Hu, more than 800 million cards will be issued during the next five-year program (2011-2015).

Article link, with photos: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-12/25/c_13663821.htm

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