the long-awaited and much-debated reform plan is likely to be revealed at the annual session of China's parliament, which opens on March 5th. The outline is already clear: a stronger role for government, including more money from the central budget, and a drive towards universal health insurance. Changes are already in train.
The reforms reverse the market-driven policies of much of the past two decades. Government hospitals and clinics, starved of funding, had turned to raising money (and boosting ill-paid doctors' salaries) by prescribing ever more expensive treatment and diagnostic procedures. With the collapse and privatisation of state-owned enterprises, the vast majority of citizens had been left with no insurance. Many began avoiding even desperately needed treatment.
In 2003 the government introduced a new medical-insurance scheme in the countryside. This involves contributions from rural residents as well as local governments and, for the first time, the central government.
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