International Health Care Systems

China and Universal Health Care

The Wall Street Journal reports that China is aiming for Universal Health Care.  The Chinese hope to cover 90% of the population within 2 years, and provide health coverage for all Chinese by 2020. 

“This all stands in contrast to China’s current system, which provides little government funding to government hospitals and requires patients to pay heavy out-of-pocket expenses. The WSJ notes that out-of-pocket payments made up more than 60% of health spending in China at the end of the 1990s…The plan doesn’t address how the government would pay for its nationalization program if hospitals are restrained from earning more and tax collection mechanisms remain weak.”

Are you craving more detailed information about health care in China?  The Lancet, Peking University Health Sciences Centre and the China Medical Board have conducted an in-depth study of health system reform in China.  The series examines topics such as preventive care, public health identification of communicable diseases, health insurance, and patient cost sharing.  The full collection of articles is available here or you can check out the a BBC News summary of The Lancet’s China series.

China is a country of great inequality.  The International Herald Tribune reports that “While life expectancy in Shanghai is 78.1 years, that figure is 66.1 in Gansu, one of the poorest provinces.”  Physicians are often poorly compensated and secure most of their income by over-prescribing lucrative pharmaceuticals to their patients.  “While the country was plagued by infectious diseases before 1990, chronic illnesses are now the main health problem and accounted for 74.1 percent of all deaths in 2005, up from 47.1 percent in 1973.”

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