Asia Health Policy Program working paper # 56
China’s national health reforms over the past two decades have brought the system closer to the modern, safe, reliable and accessible health system that is commensurate with China’s dramatic economic growth, improvement in living standards, and high hopes for the next generation. Celebrating a decade this year, China’s national health reforms of 2009 consolidated a system of social health insurance covering the entire population for basic health services, contributing to a surge in healthcare utilization while reducing out-of-pocket costs to patients – which declined from 56% to 28% of total health expenditures between 2003 and 2017. An expanded basic public health service package, funded by per capita government budget allocations that include a higher central government subsidy for lower income provinces, provides basic population health services to all Chinese. A higher percentage of Chinese accessed hospital admissions in 2017 than in the average high-income (OECD) country – a large increase from the turn of the 21st century.i A recent re-shuffle of the governance structure consolidates the purchaser role for social health insurance schemes under the newly created National Healthcare Security Administration, with most other health sector functions under the re-christened National Health Commission, among other changes. China’s world-leading technological prowess in multiple fields spanning digital commerce to artificial intelligence—and accompanying innovative business models such as WeDoctor that have not yet been fully integrated into the health system—hold promise for supporting higher quality and more convenient healthcare for China’s 1.4 billion.
Keywords: China; Health System