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Medical Reform Draft Open to Public Debate

China issued on Tuesday a draft reform of the country's health care system in an effort to solicit public opinion.

It's one step toward a universal medical system which China hopes to have in place by 2020.

The concept of the draft is to ensure public medical institutions don't operate for profit.

Changes also emphasize disease prevention, health care in rural areas and the development of both western and traditional medicines.

The draft listed five priorities: speeding up the establishment of a universal health care system, setting up a basic drug system, improving the grassroots health service network, providing equal public health service to rural and urban residents and pushing forward reform trials in state-run hospitals.

Authorities have been debating changes to China's health care system since 2006.

Growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, lack of access, poor doctor-patient relationships and low medical insurance coverage compelled China to launch a new round of reforms.

According to a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rising medical costs are the number one concern of Chinese people.

China first started reforming health care in 1992 to abolish a system under which the government covered more than 90 percent of expenses.

The country switched to a market-oriented medical system. However, soaring medical costs plunged many rural and urban Chinese into poverty.

Currently, there are about 400 million people around the country without any health care coverage, according to Ministry of Health.

The draft was jointly issued by the Ministry of Health and National Development and Reform Commission.

It will be open for public debate until November 14.

People can visit the website: to leave suggestions and comments.

(Xinhua News Agency October 14, 2008)

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