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China pushes forward medical reform

Updated: Jan 29,2017 11:16 AM

The State Council issued many policies in the past two years to promote China’s medical reform. Premier Li Keqiang also stressed on many occasions the importance of medical reform.

Expanding medical reform

Premier Li urged further breakthroughs in medical reform to make the country’s medical service more cost-effective and more affordable.

In written remarks for a teleconference on expanding medical reform held on April 29, 2015, Premier Li said related authorities should continue to ensure that basic medical services are available, improve services offered by medical institutions at the grassroots level, and set up a working system of medical services.

“The development of the medical industry is the primary need of people’s lives, and also a requirement for China’s development,” said Premier Li, who urged upgrading the medical industry and approved the main tasks for its 2016 reform, during the State Council executive meetings on Feb 14 and April 6 of last year.

“We should promote the connection of medical treatment, medical insurance and medicine,” said the Premier, during the 2016 Government Work Report delivered on March 5, 2016.

To help policy implementation, the State Council issued a guideline in March 2016, clarifying seven tasks for the medical industry, including developing modern logistics and establishing credibility of the medical system.

In April 2016, the State Council released key tasks for the 2016 medical reform, which included more reform in public hospitals, building a hierarchy system of treatment, improving national medical insurance and expanding medicine supply.

In June 2016, the State Council issued a circular regarding application and development of big data in the health and medical sectors, with the goal of promoting online appointments and mobile payments, and achieving cross-sector and cross-regional data resource sharing.

In December 2016, the State Council approved two guidelines, one on improving healthcare and medical services during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), and another on medical reform in the next five years.

Medical insurance integration

In January 2016, the State Council issued a circular, highlighting the integration of medical insurance in urban areas with a new rural cooperative medical system.

Then in the 2016 Government Work Report delivered on March 5, 2016, Premier Li said, “We will merge the basic medical insurance systems for rural and non-working urban residents and raise government subsidies for the plan, from 380 ($57) to 420 yuan ($63) per capita per annum.”

National portability of medical insurance

At a news conference after the conclusion of the national legislature’s annual session on March 16, 2016, Premier Li answered a question concerning the timetable for national portability of medical insurance.

“The Chinese government is fully determined to achieve national portability of medical insurance plans at a faster pace. This year we will basically achieve direct settlement of such expenses at the provincial level. And we also plan to spend two years to achieve the direct settlement of hospitalization expenses by retired elderly people in places away from their hometowns, to remove this big concern in the minds of our people,” the Premier said.

Serious illness insurance plan

At the State Council executive meeting on July 22, 2015, the Premier stressed that serious illness insurance is the key to guarding the bottom line of society, and reassured the public that affordable medical treatments will be provided to those who suffer from serious illnesses.

During a visit to a hospital in Luoyang city, Central China’s Henan province, on Sept 23, 2015, Premier Li also said both rural and urban residents are entitled to medical insurance coverage.

In the 2016 Government Work Report, Premier Li said that all residents in urban and rural areas must be covered by serious illness insurance by the end of 2016, and the central government will allocate more funds to reduce medical burdens for patients with serious illnesses.

“Health is at the root of happiness,” Premier Li said.

Drug pricing

Premier Li stressed further expanding medical system reform at a State Council executive meeting on April 6, 2016. He laid out detailed tasks, including setting up responsibility tracing mechanisms and promoting information transparency, in an effort to reduce medicine prices. He also stressed the importance of improving the merit pay system for medical institutions at the grassroots level.

Drug quality

A State Council executive meeting on Feb 14, 2016, presided over by Premier Li, decided to advance the upgrade and innovation of the pharmaceutical industry. “We are determined to enhance the quality of drugs,” said the Premier, adding that healthy development of the pharmaceutical industry and further medical reform should be integrated to better serve people and boost growth.

Development of TCM

Efforts also have been made for the development of traditional Chinese medicine. The State Council executive meeting on Feb 14, 2016, decided to further promote the development of the industry, and then issued an outline of the plan, approving seven tasks between 2016 and 2030. They include improving the service network covering urban and rural areas, integrating the development of different varieties of medicine, and stepping up applying “Internet Plus” strategy to traditional Chinese medicine.

“While maintaining the characteristics of TCM, we should further promote the development of TCM with an open mind,” he said.

Internet Plus medical care

Premier Li visited the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone on March 25, 2016, in South China’s Hainan province, China’s first medical tourism center. When he saw experts on cancer therapy from hospitals in Hainan province, Tianjin municipality and the University of Hamburg in Germany discussing the treatment methods for a Chinese patient through remote devices on the internet, the Premier highly praised the “medical care plus the internet” treatment method.

“Even though you are thousands of miles apart, the remote medical care devices close distances by bringing you together,” Premier Li said.

Medical tourism

At the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone, Premier Li also praised the new business model that combines medical care with vacations.

The Premier stated that medical tourism is a project of people’s livelihood and a form of the new economy. “People’s health is the basis for China’s long-term development, so a high standard should be set for the medical tourism industry,” he said.

Addressing public’s concerns

On addressing the public’s concerns about vaccines, Premier Li said that the quality of vaccines concerns the lives and health of the general public, especially children’s, which cannot be violated.

In late April 2016, the State Council revised the regulations on the management of vaccine circulation and administration, deciding to improve the sales of the second type vaccine and legal system of logistics, and to intensify responsibilities and punishments.