Minister of Health Chen Zhu has emphasized that his ministry is determined to propel healthcare reform forward despite the difficulties.
The current round of healthcare reform, launched in April 2009, is guided by the policy that basic medical services are a public service that should be available to all citizens. The State offers basic medical services as public goods, while individuals pay for their own specific needs.
Today the healthcare system offers 95 percent of the population affordable basic medical services.
But to further propel the reform requires ending the long popular practice among public hospitals of making profits from prescribing medicines. Due to low government funding, doctors at public hospitals generate income for the hospitals through prescribing expensive drugs and treatments.
That practice has boosted the profits of many hospitals but it has also led to a cozy relationship with the pharmaceutical companies. A gray-income chain has emerged that links the pharmaceutical industry to hospitals through the money paid by patients for their medicines.
This has created friction between doctors and patients, as many doctors are willing to prescribe unnecessary and expensive medicines in order to increase income. This friction has intensified in recent years, and there have been violent incidents in hospitals as a result.
It is time to break this gray-income chain, so that public hospitals and clinics prescribe only the medicines patients need rather than medicines that make the most money for the hospital.
Today, hospitals can be reimbursed through higher service fees, which can be covered with more investment from State-supported healthcare funds.
Healthcare reform will benefit all. With more and better medical insurance, patients can save money on medical treatments, while doctors can concentrate on giving patients the best possible treatment at the lowest price. This will also help reduce the friction that has developed between patients and doctors.
So we welcome the ministry's determination to push forward healthcare reform, and wish it a success.