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Sound Healthcare System Needed

President Hu Jintao said yesterday that a comprehensive healthcare network and an innovative system were needed to build a relatively well-off and harmonious society.

China should expedite the development of medical services in rural areas, promote community-based clinics and medical and healthcare reforms, Hu said at a panel discussion during the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that opened on Saturday.

The medical and insurance system should be improved further to guarantee timely treatment and safe drugs to the common people at reasonable prices, said Hu, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. 

Hu called for persistent efforts to build an innovative mechanism based on science and technology. 

Minister of Health Gao Qiang said it was China's ultimate goal to establish a multi-format, multi-level healthcare system that guaranteed every citizen, both in the rural and urban areas, basic medical services, even though it would take some time. 

A draft of the new medical care reform system will be ready this year, Gao said. The Ministry of Health and 10 other ministries and commissions are still studying the overall situation. 

"There is huge gap between the amount of medical insurance fees paid by rural and urban citizens, which has to be narrowed in time before such a system for all is in place," Gao said. 

For example, the per capita medical insurance fee is 1,100 yuan (US$137) in the urban areas, while it's a mere 50 yuan (US$5.1) for those who have become part of the rural cooperative healthcare system. "The gap will finally be narrowed but it needs a long time," he said. 

A State Council Development and Research Center report last year said the existing healthcare system was "basically not successful". 

"Medical service fairness is declining and medical fees are too high for most people to afford," it said. "The rural medical insurance system has obvious flaws. Only the relatively rich in the countryside have joined it, with most children, adolescents, unemployed and migrant workers being excluded."

(China Daily March 5, 2007)

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