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Medical Expenses Increase Dramatically

A survey released Wednesday said that medical expenses are growing faster than the average income in China.


"In the past five years, the annual income of the urban and rural residents rose by 8.9 percent and 2.4 percent respectively, while the medical expenses in urban and rural areas rose by 13.5 percent and 11.8 percent," said the national health services survey conducted by the Chinese Health Ministry.


"Medical and health expenses have become the third largest family expense after food and education (to Chinese people)," it said.


According to the survey, the average expenditure for outpatient visits of the urban residents was 219 yuan (about US$26.5) and average expenditure for inpatient services was 7,606 yuan in 2003, up 85 percent and 88 percent respectively compared to 1998.


Similarly, the increase of outpatient visit and inpatient service fees increased 103 percent and 73 percent for rural resident during the past five years, the report said.


"The average expenditure for one hospital admission is equivalent to the average annual income of a rural or urban resident," the survey said.


In contrast to the continuously increasing medical fees, a large percentage of Chinese people don't have medical insurance.


The survey said about 50.4 percent of the urban residents and more than 80 percent of the rural residents covered in the research do not have any kind of medical insurance.


"The excessive medical expenditure has become the main barrier for the majority of Chinese to take outpatient and inpatient services," the survey said. "If the rising trend is not reversed, heavier financial burdens will be placed on society and families, and the demand for professional health services will be even more suppressed."


The Health Ministry said the survey was conducted during September and October of 2003, sampling 57,000 households.


(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2004)

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