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Health Care Reform Focuses on Public Service

China's health care reform will focus on the public health service, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday.

Under the reform plan, the country will ensure the non-profit nature of its public medical service, and speed up the building of a health insurance network in urban and rural areas, improve the public health service and set up production, distribution and a state catalog of basic medicines, Wem said at a meeting held by the State Council.

About 22 experts, medical workers, ordinary citizens and representatives from pharmacy companies attended the meeting, the first held to solicit opinions about a draft plan for health care reform.

Participants had contributed valuable and helpful ideas to the draft plan, the Premier said, adding: "We will study them carefully and improve the draft plan."

Public opinion will then be sought, he said.

"Health care reform is relevant to every citizen and family. It is a very tough and complicated reform," the premier said. "We will work hard to put it in the right direction and adopt practical principles and measures."

Soaring medical costs have meant poverty for many Chinese as a result of a failure to implement an adequate medical insurance network after subsidies were cut in 1992.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, rising medical costs have become the top concern for Chinese people. The high costs usually resulted from expensive medicines.

The Chinese government started working on a health care reform plan in June 2006 amid mounting public concern about medical services.

This year the central government is to allocate 83.2 billion yuan (about US$11.7 billion) to support the reform and development of the health care system, an increase of 16.7 billion yuan over last year, with the focus on spending on facilities at the urban community and village level.

(Xinhua News Agency April 16, 2008)

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