23 Jun 2009 15:37

China's health care reform success reliant on implementation plans - expert

By Karl Zhong

Shanghai. June 23. INTERFAX-CHINA - Success of China's health care reform is dependent on how the Chinese government aligns the supplementary implementation plans it issues as the reform progresses, according to an expert at the 5th Annual China Health Care Management Forum held in Shanghai on June 20.

"It will be challenging for the government to ensure that all the supplementary health care reform implementation plans complement one another," Wang Dongjin, chairman of the China Medical Insurance Research Association, said.

"The health care reform will see a total of 21 supplementary implementation plans, some of which have been issued while more will be released very soon," Wang said. The majority of the supplementary implementation plans is expected to be released before the end of this year.

Wang cited the example of the medical insurance reimbursable drug list and the essential drug list, noting that the government needs to define and clarify the relationship between the two lists.

In addition, supplementary implementation plans will not be drawn up by the Ministry of Health alone, rather various government agencies will work together in drafting the plans. For instance, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security will be involved in the drafting of 13 supplementary implementation plans, including those relating to medical insurance for retirees from bankrupt companies, improvement in efficient use of medical insurance funds and medical expense reimbursement across regions.

"A conspicuous issue in the public medical insurance sector is that the government faces a shortage of staff. Further, operational and information systems utilized in the public medical insurance sector lag behind the pace of expansion of medical insurance in China," Wang said.

With regards to the public hospital reform, Wang noted that even though it is central to the health care reform, it will only be conducted on a trial basis over the next three years.

He explained that this may be due to the fact that government agencies have not reached an agreement on how to proceed with the public hospital reform.

"If the public hospital reform is not successful, to an extent it will definitely offset the positive results from other aspects of the health care reform," Wang added.

Implementation challenges aside, Dr. Xu Xiaonian, a professor of economics and finance at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), said that not enough attention is paid to market function in the health care reform plan, which will eventually lead to market inefficiency and high latent costs such as kickbacks and corruption.