- The Washington Times - Monday, April 6, 2009

BEIJING (AP) - China announced Monday it will extend medical services to all its citizens by 2020, taking aim at a health care system long derided as creaking and inadequate.

The reforms aims to boost funding and oversight to provide “safe, effective, convenient and affordable” health services for all 1.3 billion citizens, according to a plan approved by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, a summary of which was released by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Under the reforms, hospitals and clinics in the poor countryside and less developed cities would be improved and the price of essential medicines used by public hospitals and clinics would be capped, Xinhua said.

Disease prevention and control, maternal health, mental health and first aid services would also receive greater attention, it said.

The reforms are aimed at “solving pressing problems that have caused strong complaints from the public,” Xinhua said.

Other details, including how much the program would cost, were not given.

China’s government has long been accused of underfunding health care, and the high cost and poor availability of services are among the biggest sources of public discontent. A serious illness can wipe out a family’s life savings and the need to bank earnings to pay medical fees is seen as putting a major damper on domestic consumption.

The planned reforms follow an announcement in January of plans to spend 850 billion yuan ($124 billion) on health care reform by 2011.


On the Net:

Central government Web site: https://www.gov.cn (in Chinese)

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