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China’s health care reform focuses on public service, Premier says

By Xinhua,

Beijing : China’s health care reform plan will focus on the public health service, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao here Tuesday.

Through the reform plan, the country will ensure the non-profit nature of its public medical service, and speed up building a health insurance network in both urban and rural areas, improve the public health service and set up a state catalog, production and distribution of basic medicines, Wen said at a meeting held by the State Council.

About 22 experts, medical workers, ordinary citizens and representatives from pharmacy companies attended the meeting, the first held to solicit opinions about a draft plan for health care reform.

Participants contributed valuable and helpful ideas to the draft plan, the Premier said, “We will study them carefully and improve the draft plan.”

The draft plan will be announced nationwide to solicit public opinion when it is ready, he said.

“Health care reform is relevant to every citizen and family. It is a very tough and complicated reform,” he said. “We will work hard to put it in the right direction and adopt practical principles and measures.”

Soaring medical costs in recent years have plunged many rural and urban Chinese back into poverty as a result of the government’s failure to implement an adequate medical insurance network after it cut subsidies for medical costs in 1992.

According to a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) last year on “unsafe” factors upsetting the public, rising medical costs have become the top concern among Chinese people. The high costs usually result from expensive medicines.

The Chinese government started working on a health care reform plan in June 2006 amid mounting concerns from the public about medical service.

This year the central government will allocate 83.2 billion yuan (about 11.7 billion U.S. dollars) to support the reform and development of health care, an increase of 16.7 billion yuan (about 2.4 billion U.S. dollars) over last year, with the focus on spending on facilities at the urban community and village level.