24 Jul 2009 14:56

China releases health care reform work plan for 2009

By Karl Zhong

Shanghai. July 24. INTERFAX-CHINA - The State Council released on July 23 a work plan for the health care reform, which lists what needs to be accomplished in five key areas this year.

With regards to the basic medical insurance reform, insurance coverage will need to be expanded to include 72 million new participants in the urban resident medical insurance program by the year's end. China must also raise the basic medical insurance reimbursement rate by 5 percentage points in 50 percent of the country's regions covered by the basic medical insurance programs and patients in 30 percent of the regions in China covered by the urban resident medical insurance program must be able to claim reimbursements for their outpatient medical expenses before the end of this year.

"All of these will help to directly stimulate drug consumption in hospitals," Chen Yu, a pharmaceutical analyst from Xinhua Assets Management Co. Ltd., told Interfax on July 24.

According to the work plan, the Ministry of Health and the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) will be responsible for the implementation of the essential drug system in 30 percent of China's grassroots medical institutions in urban and rural areas before the end of the year. They will also need to include essential drugs, which are mostly commonly used drugs that have a higher reimbursement rate, in the revision of the basic medical insurance drug list by November this year.

"We are expecting a number of new drugs to be included in the basic medical insurance drug list this year," Chen said.

The work plan stipulates that the NDRC must ensure that 986 county-level hospitals, 3,549 township hospitals and 1,154 urban community health centers are established across China before the end of this year.

Regarding public health services projects, health records will have to be set up for 30 percent of China's urban residents and hepatitis B immunization will need to be carried out for 23 million children aged below 15 years old before the end of this year.

"As we observe that the priorities of the health care reform presently lie primarily in the setup of grassroots medical institutions and the essential drug system, as well as expansion of the basic medical insurance programs, there may not be any material progress in the public hospital reform this year," Chen added.

Public hospital reform will only be conducted in 100 hospitals located in 12 cities in eastern, central and western China this year, according to the work plan.