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Hospitals Ordered to Offer Cheaper Check-ups
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Patients will benefit from reduced medical bills after the government banned hospitals from making profits on check-ups using CT scanners, X-ray machines and other equipments.

The move is a reaction to mounting public discontent with the price of health care.

Public hospitals have been ordered that "no profit should be considered" when conducting check-ups using 10 specific kinds of machines.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the hospitals' pricing supervisor authorized by the State Council, and the Ministry of Health made a joint statement yesterday to launch pricing principles.

"This is a major step forward as we tackle the pressing issue of high medical bills," said a commission spokesman. Supervision will mainly focus on the use of 10 machines including X-ray machines and CT and magnetic resonance scanners.

The commission will soon establish a specific body to decide prices of physical examinations when using the equipment. The spokesman did not say how much bills would be cut, but accused some hospitals of blindly importing expensive equipment and passing on the costs to patients.

China's expenditure on imported medical equipment reached US$1.98 billion during the first 11 months of this year, a 12 percent year-on-year increase, according to statistics from NDRC.

To increase bills, and profits, some hospitals even required patients to undergo unnecessary checks, the spokesman said, citing the case of a patient with a common cold who was told to have a CT scan.

Yesterday's decision was a continuation of the government's campaign to cut medical bills. In September, a 40 percent reduction in retail price of 22 types of medicine was announced.

In the past eight years, the government has enacted 16 waves of price cuts covering 1,500 medicines. However, the majority are still unhappy about high bills and the poor standard of care offered at public hospitals.

(China Daily December 29, 2005)

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