Monday, 17 March 2014

What's in the budget for health? Highlights from China's NPC budget announcements

by Michael Woodhead
Unlike political parties in the west, China's ruling Communist Party does not have to publish an election manifesto with budget commitments or account for where it has allocated its budget spending. However, following the recent National People's Congress meeting in Beijing, the Party has released some 'budget statements'. They're pretty vague and there isn't anyone or any agency to check on the figures, but this is what they had to say about health:

The background:

1. Spending on medical and health care last year amounted to 259 billion yuan, 99.4% of the budgeted figure and a 26.4% increase.

2. We raised government subsidies for the new rural cooperative medical care system and basic medical insurance for nonworking urban residents to 280 yuan per person per year.

3. Most provincial-level administrative areas unveiled plans to introduce serious illness insurance for their rural and nonworking urban residents.

4. We increased the standard of funding for basic public health services to 30 yuan per person per year, and continued to support major public health service projects.

5. We made steady progress in the pilot reform of county-level public hospitals and the comprehensive reform of community medical and health care centers, and launched a pilot program for posting general practitioners in such institutions.

6. We moved ahead with developing a system for providing assistance in dealing with medical emergencies.

What's next?

- First, we must facilitate the reform of the medical and health care systems. In line with the requirements for each year's work set forth in the plan for deepening the reform of the medical and health care systems during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period, we will increase government subsidies for the new rural cooperative medical care system and basic medical insurance for nonworking urban residents from 280 yuan to 320 yuan per person per year and accordingly increase the annual individual contribution from 70 to 90 yuan per person.

- We will more quickly push ahead the work of insuring rural and nonworking urban residents against serious illnesses to further reduce their burden of medical expenses.

- We will increase input in medical assistance in urban and rural areas, expand access to such assistance, and provide assistance to those suffering from serious mental illness.

- We will increase financial input in public health, continue to implement basic and major public health services projects, and raise annual per capita spending on basic public health services to 35 yuan.

- We will continue with the trials on comprehensive reform in county-level public hospitals, and develop better policies of subsidizing community medical and health care centers to motivate them and their staff to enhance their services in terms of both quantity and quality.

But wait, there's more:

* We will abolish the practice of compensating for low medical service charges with high drug prices, adjust the prices of medical care and drugs, and create a mechanism for running hospitals by nongovernmental capital.

* We will consolidate and improve the system of using basic medicines and the new mechanisms for operating community-level clinics.

* We will improve the system of tiered medical services, strengthen training of general practitioners, and allow doctors to work in more than one medical institution so that people have easy access to quality medical services.

* We will build harmonious relations between doctors and patients.

* We will improve our capacity to prevent and treat major communicable and chronic diseases and occupational and endemic diseases. The government subsidy for basic public health services will be increased to 35 yuan per person.

* We will support the development of traditional Chinese medicine and the traditional medicine of ethnic minorities.

* We will unwaveringly adhere to the basic state policy of family planning and will implement the policy that allows married couples to have two children if one parent is a single child.

* We must resolutely press ahead with medical reform and work out a Chinese solution to this global problem so that the Chinese people can enjoy a happier and healthier life.

So there you have it ....

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