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New Healthcare Reform Plan Criticized as 'Too Hard' to Understand

China's policy makers may not have anticipated the strong feedback they have received from the public on the new healthcare reform plan was to make it legible.

"It's too hard to understand. What is it about?" an anonymous netizen wrote on, commenting on the 13,000-word document, which opened to public debate on Tuesday.

"The plan should be comprehensible to the general public. Do you think farmers, who are in great need of medical help, could understand it and propose any suggestions?" Liu Zheng wrote on the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) website.

Such opinions were shared by many, including scholars and health professionals.

Peking University Professor Liu Guoen described the plan as a "Baguwen," or the eight-part essay prescribed for the Imperial civil service examinations of long ago, known for its rigidity of form and paucity of ideas.

Criticizing the plan as being ambiguous, the academic said by trying to address each and every aspect of the healthcare system, the plan had no focus and looked too complicated.

Liu said the plan's creators failed to explain professional items and ideas in simple words. "If they intend to solicit public opinion, they should at least change the writing style."

State media, which seldom openly criticizes government, also joined the reprehension.

Bai Yansong, a renowned TV host with state broadcaster CCTV, said the plan was full of "empty" and "obscure" words.

"I believe many people will have nothing to say about the reform, because they don't know what it is," he said in a program on Wednesday. "It's all written in Chinese, but you just cannot understand it."

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

In the new plan, the government promised to set up a "safe, effective, convenient and affordable" healthcare system that would cover all urban and rural residents by 2020.

It clarifies government's responsibility by saying it plays a dominant role in providing public health and basic medical services.

The draft was formulated by a team of officials and experts from 16 departments, including the Ministry of Health and the NDRC.

An NDRC official told Chengdu Business Daily (Chengdu Shangbao) that the commission had noticed such complaints.

"The plan is a guideline," the newspaper quoted Ren Wei as saying. "Supplementary documents will be released in future."

The draft will be open for public debate until November 14. So far, nearly 4,000 comments and suggestions had been posted on the website, which the government set up to solicit opinion.

(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2008)

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