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Public feedback sought on reform of healthcare
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Public opinion is being sought on a new draft issued Tuesday to reform the country's healthcare system.

It is another step toward a universal medical healthcare system, which China hopes to have in place by 2020.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) published the 13,500-word draft on its website, http://shs.ndrc.gov.cn/yg, and welcomed opinions from the public on its content. The closing date is Nov 14.

The draft lists five priorities: speeding up the establishment of a universal health care system, setting up a basic drug system, improving the grassroots health service network, providing an equal public health service to rural and urban residents, and pushing forward reform in State-run hospitals.

The draft points out that uneven development between urban and rural areas is a major problem facing China's reform of the healthcare system.

It said the establishment of a system to ensure hospitals in urban areas help those in the countryside is vital.

"Big hospitals in urban areas should constantly help county hospitals in clinical services, personnel training, technical support, and equipment assistance," the draft said.

Authorities have been discussing changes to the country's healthcare system since 2006.

There has been growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, lack of access, poor doctor-patient relationships and low medical insurance coverage.

A National Bureau of Statistics survey shows that rising medical costs are of most concern to the people.

China first started reforming the healthcare sector in 1992 to abolish a system under which the government covered more than 90 percent of expenses.

The country switched to a market-oriented system. However, many people found they could not afford the soaring medical costs.

Currently, there are about 400 million people who do not have any kind of healthcare coverage, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health.

This is the second time the public is being asked for their opinions on healthcare reform.

In April, Premier Wen Jiabao held two symposiums in Zhongnanhai to discuss the issue with representatives from the medical field, companies, migrant, and farm workers.

(China Daily October 15, 2008)

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