Policy Briefing on China's Health Care Reform
BEIJING, 5 March 2012 - The Ministry of Health and the United Nations Theme Group on Health, chaired by WHO and co-chaired by UNICEF and UNFPA, hosted a briefing by the Minister of Health, Professor Chen Zhu, on 14 February, 2012. This is the third consecutive year that the Ministerial Briefing was held.
It was attended by more than one hundred representatives of the UN, multilateral, and bilateral agencies, embassies, non-governmental organizations and media, including UN Heads of Agencies and senior staff.
Minister Chen Zhu reviewed the progress in health care reform since it was announced in early 2009. Key achievements include nearly universal coverage of basic health insurance, expanded coverage of essential drugs, improved grassroots medical service delivery system, expanded access to basic public health services, and progress in public hospital reform. The three main medical insurance schemes now provide coverage for 95% of rural and urban populations. The essential drug system has been implemented at village clinics in 31 provinces. Grassroots health care facilities have been remarkably improved.
"I am greatly impressed by the progress so far in health reform in China and, in particular, the efforts to ensure that quality services and medicines reach rural communities and western regions of China." said Dr Michael O'Leary, WHO Representative in China, the moderator of this policy briefing.
Minister Chen Zhu also discussed future goals and major tasks of health care reform in the 12th 5 year period (2011-2015). He said this period is crucial to accelerate health care reform, especially in key areas including universal health care, essential drug system and public hospital reform.
He said an insurance mechanism for catastrophic disease will be explored, including establishing insurance fund for catastrophic diseases at provincial level, and by the end of 2012, fully implementing existing schemes for 8 major diseases, and expanding to 20 diseases in one third of the New Rural Cooperative Medical System (NRCMS) covered region. The reimbursement rate is expected to increase substantially to reduce patient out of pocket costs.
He also stated that, in this period, the Government of China will proactively advance public hospital reform, eliminating the practice of subsidizing medical services with profit from drug sales, and retaining 90% of patients within county and lower level hospitals. It is planned to conduct reform in 300 pilot counties in 2012, and scale up in all county level hospitals by 2013.
These and other measures signal a high commitment from the Government to ensure universal access to basic health care and public services. Minister Chen Zhu thanked the international community for their support and wished continued assistance in the areas of international expertise and information sharing.
The presentation was well-received by international community. Minister Chen Zhu also answered questions from participants with regard to non communicable disease, AIDS prevention and health insurance of migrant population.
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