Tuesday, 10 December 2013

One in four Chinese households face 'catastrophic' medical bills

by Michael Woodhead
Up to one in four households in some parts of China  experience catastrophic medical expenses, a study from Shanghai has found.
Dr Li Xiaohong and co-researchers from the School of Public Health, Fudan University analysed data from a survey of 11,577 households conducted in eastern China in 2008.
They found the incidence of household catastrophic medical expenses ranged from 9% to 25%. Households were more likely to experience catastrophic medical expenses if they were in rural areas, had a family member with chronic diseases, had a child younger than five years old, had a person at home who was at least 65 years old, and had a household member who was hospitalised.
The researchers said it was notable that households with children were more likely to face catastrophic medical expenses.
“It is quite common in China that parents, even in poor families, are willing to seek the best care possible for their children, especially for their young children who are more susceptible to illness,” they said.
Another interesting finding was that the poorest households did not report the highest rate of catastrophic medical expenses, possibly because they tend to skip or limit their use of health services due to financial barriers.
The researchers said that current public insurance schemes were inadequate, even in developed parts of China.
“It needs to be realised that a mere improvement in coverage is not sufficient, and it is more important to improve the level compensation in the future. The New Cooperative Medical Scheme has achieved the coverage of 90% or higher [18], but the level of compensation varies greatly across areas and is not high in most areas in rural China. Given the current high proportion of out-of-pocket payment, a more important step is to increase the level of reimbursement,” they suggested.
Source: BMC Health Services Research

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