Finally we have an official blueprint for health-care reform.
The guidelines the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) submitted for public scrutiny in October have been endorsed by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.
By and large, they are what we have been talking about for months - a general policy framework showing the direction of health care reforms.
Seeing our health care system is in desperate need of repair, we cannot afford to wait to see changes in the way medical resources are managed in this country.
We want lower drug and service prices, and better service.
But first of all we need a clear blueprint for the overdue reshuffle.
What is essential here is strategic insight that makes sure the direction of the anticipated reforms is the right one.
Judging by its text, the guidelines soundly address concerns on both the micro and macro levels.
In the short term, they pledge to effectively cut the cost of medical services, making them affordable and accessible.
The long-term prospect is "safe, effective, convenient, and low-cost" health care for all.
With a well-charted road map in hand, the next question is to what extent will such promises materialize.
So many technical breakthroughs are needed to make such an enticing picture a reality.
This again beckons more specifics from the government, on what will ultimately determine the success or failure of the transformation.
That is why we are anxious to see a detailed three-year action plan.
It will not only decide how the 850 billion yuan (US$124 billion) the central government has earmarked for health-care reforms will be spent, but also what kind of changes we can expect.
At the core of the program is the idea to guarantee the nature of basic health care as a "public service".
The program's fulfillment will entail tremendous financial outlays plus consistent political will.
Perhaps not every ordinary citizen can fully appreciate what is included in the 13,000-word document.
But each of us has a simple test to gauge whether it really works: Will medical bills continue to break the bank?
(China Daily April 7, 2009)