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Officials Monitoring Medicine, Service Costs in Beijing
Beijing officials are monitoring the prices of medicine and medical services in an effort to curb rising medical expenses.

That scrutiny is the first component of a programme implemented earlier this week by the Beijing Municipal Price Bureau.

Bureau officials yesterday confirmed the programme is scheduled to conclude in October.

"The examination's purpose is to identify and punish those people who are charging more than they should for medicine or medical services, in contravention of government's stipulations," said a bureau official, on condition of anonymity.

"Greedy and audacious" people breaking the law by charging more than they should for medicine and related services have caused prices to rise.

People must understand the medicine price index still increases even if the consumer price index falls, the source said.

"That is frustrating, because municipal authorities have tried hard to cut such costs, which have become a heavy burden for many local, low- and middle-income families," the source said.

Officials last year organized many Beijing hospitals so they could purchase wholesale dozens of frequently used drugs, which led to discounts as pharmaceutical companies bid to supply medicine.

Those cost savings, however, have not been passed on to consumers, despite promises made by the hospitals.

The fact those discounts have not occurred has been the most-common price-related complaint heard throughout China during the year's first half, indicates a recent State Development Planning Commission report.

"We should find out what has happened ... during this examination and we will fine those hospitals for not having fulfilled their promises," said the official

(China Daily August 30, 2002)

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