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Healthcare Plans in Pipeline
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A handful of local and international research and health organizations has been charged with coming up with six different proposals for reforming the country's healthcare system, said Deputy Health Minister Chen Xiaohong.

The State Council oversaw the creation of a team of 15 ministries to hammer out every detail of healthcare reform, including management mechanisms and financial inputs, Chen said.

That team entrusted six organizations, including several renowned universities, research institutions under the State Council, international organizations such as the World Health Organization and overseas private agencies to put forward different proposals for healthcare reform.

"A final version of the reform policy will be unveiled after the relevant authorities discuss and compare the schemes," Chen said.

Confronted by rocketing medical fees and discouraging doctor-patient relations, the authorities are seeking solutions to the problems with the country's basic medical services, insurance system and hospital management.

Health Minister Gao Qiang has predicted that the plan for healthcare reform would be ready this year, though experts say it could take a much longer time to formulate a plan that addresses thorny issues like financial input and overhauling management structures.

During a discussion of the Health Ministry's handling of proposals submitted during last year's sessions of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Chen also said the new rural cooperative healthcare system would cover 80 percent of China's counties within this year and all rural areas by next year.

About 50.7 percent of the country's rural areas, or 1,451 counties, were covered by the system at the end of last year.

Each farmer who voluntarily joins the system, which dates back to 2003, pays 10 yuan (US$1.2) into a medical fund every year. State and local governments contribute at least 20 yuan each to the fund. Farmers who participate in the system are entitled to a refund of a proportion of the cost of any medical treatment they receive.

Some 410 million farmers have signed up for system, accounting for 47.2 percent of the total rural population. Last year the system raised 21.36 billion yuan, and spent 15.58 billion yuan.

(China Daily March 12, 2007)

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