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November 24, 2009

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Higher charges in health care policy

HIGHER charges for medical services but lower drug prices is the goal for China's health care reform, the country's top planning body said yesterday.

According to the Website of the National Development and Reform Commission, medical staff should enjoy higher prices for their professional services including diagnosis, daily care and surgeries, but charges for lab-equipment screening and treatment will be lower.

Artificial implants are to be strictly managed and their prices strictly limited.

In addition, a maximum 15-percent increase from market price in average is allowed temporarily for drugs also sold in hospitals but the gap will be gradually narrowed and finally closed, according to the new policy.

A price cap for expensive drugs could be introduced.

Public hospitals suffering losses as a result will be entitled to government subsidies or allowed to increase their service charges.

In future, services offered by high-end medical institutions will cost more for those patients who can afford it, according to the policy.


Recently, Health Minister Chen Zhu said the imbalance in the distribution of health care resources stood in the way of China pushing forward ambitious reforms in the sector.

The country needed to train more doctors and medical staff in grassroots organizations to address the challenges brought about by the shortage of medical professionals.

The government unveiled a three-year health care reform plan in April, saying it would lay a solid foundation for equitable and universal access to essential health care in China by 2020.

Under the 850 billion yuan (US$124.4 billion) plan for 2009 to 2011, the government promised universal access to basic health insurance, the introduction of an essential drug system, improved primary health care facilities, equitable access to basic public health services and pilot reform of state-run hospitals.

It is expected to be spent subsidizing basic medical insurance programs, supporting grassroots health facilities and underdeveloped western and rural regions, where resources are scarce compared to those in major cities.


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