Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Ministry of Health clarifies that 'bulk billing' free treatment scheme will only be a pilot

China’s Ministry of Health denied a statement that a medical payment system that allowed patients to pay after treatment will be introduced nationwide, but confirmed that the system was encouraged to promote in pilot regions.
The pilot system reveals a change in China’s medical payment system – hospitals will pay the fees under related policies for patients first and settle the accounts with the medical insurance then.
Earlier, state-run China Central Television reported that the ministry will introduce the system of “Pay after Treatment” in hospitals across the country this year.
But Jiao Yahui, head of the ministry’s medical management division, said on Tuesday that the system will only be promoted in some qualified pilot regions.
Under the new system, patients, especially those suffering extreme conditions, will receive treatment first. Hospitals will pay the fees for them first and repay by medical insurance later. After the treatment, patients will only pay the part that is not included in the medical insurance.
Currently, most Chinese citizens must pay their bills and apply for a reimbursement covered by medical insurance, usually more than 70 percent of the total treatment fees, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Jiao said the “Pay after Treatment” system was first tested in a hospital in Beijing in 2009. Now more than 20 provincial regions are carrying out the pilot programs in local hospitals, Xinhua said.
Jiao said the new system will not be adopted nationwide in the short term due to an immature social credit system and insufficient medical insurance in the country.
Some patients may "disappear" without paying treatment fees after leaving hospital, which has created risks for the hospitals, according to Jiao. Hospitals will not be able to get the money back if patients don’t buy any medical insurance, Xinhua said.
But in coastal wealthy regions, hospitals won’t face such risk. Medical insurance departments, instead of hospitals, will pay in advance for patients who have bought medical insurance, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.
An unnamed director with the medical insurance department of a major hospital in Shanghai told the paper on Tuesday that the department will allocate one twelfths of the annual amount of medical insurance to the hospital every month and the money can totally cover what patients need.
The paper said the above system of payment in advance by medical insurance department can support the “Pay after Treatment” medical payment system. But it hasn’t introduced in most regions of middle and west China.
Zhu Hengpeng, head of the Center for Public Policy with the Institute of Economics of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that the reform of medical payment system is just a technical matter, what matters the most is the reform of the medical service supply system, the paper reported.
Currently in China, public hospitals have monopolized the medical service, it’s hard for the new payment system to work, Zhu said.
Source: Morning Whistle

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