China's healthcare policy a timely help for the poor

2019-07-29 08:54:07 Xinhua Xinhua

When his heart felt uncomfortable four years ago, Ma Shengwu could hardly do anything but bearing the suffering by himself.

"I was too poor to go to the hospital," said Ma, 47, a villager in Biandangou Township of Wuzhong City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. "I had to save money to support my family."

It was not until late last year when his conditions worsened that he had to see the doctor.

"My feet were swollen, and I could hardly breathe then," Ma said. "I borrowed tens of thousands of yuan (1 yuan equals 15 cents) from friends."

Ma received an operation, but surprisingly, the cost was less than 5,000 yuan, a very small scratch of the money he had borrowed in advance. The government reimbursed the rest of the cost, which totaled 140,000 yuan.

The Chinese government is trying to help those struggling under the poverty line because of illnesses with a healthcare project launched in 2016 to include the impoverished into the country's medical reimbursement system.

In Ningxia, for instance, from January 2017 to April 2019, 43,800 impoverished people were hospitalized at a medical expense of 420 million yuan, but they only needed to pay about 32 million yuan, or about 7.6 percent of the total.

Since 2016, all impoverished residents were included in the country's various medical insurance systems, said Zeng Yunguang, with the National Health Commission. A series of preferential policies were issued to lower their payment for medical treatment.

The project effectively tackled a pain in the neck for many rural residents, and people like Ma Shengwu no longer have to bear painful suffering and can go directly to hospitals without worrying about high costs.

According to the National Health Commission, the average poor resident's payment rate of hospitalization has been lowered from 46 percent in 2016 to 7.6 percent in 2019.

Mai Xiaoxia, a village doctor in Ningxia's Wuzhong City, said she felt the concrete, positive changes brought about by the healthcare policies.

"In the past, villagers wouldn't see the doctor unless their conditions became unbearable, but now they naturally go to the hospital if they don't feel good," she said.

These days, the project is gaining further steam.

In many counties, patients can get treatment first and pay at a later date. A "reimburse-at-the-site" system streamlined the once complicated process of reimbursing. Many high-level hospitals worked with small ones in rural areas to help enhance their medical treatment abilities.

In Biandangou Township, where Ma Shengwu lives, the local government has purchased high-tech equipment such as color ultrasonic diagnosis machines and automatic blood analyzers for the local hospital. Doctors from higher-level medical institutions are often sent to the hospital to help treat patients. Even treatment with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), such as acupuncture, has been introduced.

"(TCM) treatment is very popular among villagers because it works well but costs less," said Luo Xinmei, director of the hospital. "With improved services, the number of outpatient visits has grown steadily."

But still, many poor counties across the country lack proper medical facilities. According to a survey of the National Health Commission, by the end of 2018, 46 townships in China still had no hospitals, and more than 1,000 villages had no clinics.

"These are our major tasks to tackle," said He Jinguo, with the commission.

But for people like Ma Shengwu, life is so much better. He no longer needs to go 30 km to an urban hospital for medical treatment.

"I was a cook before, and I hope to go back to my workplace after recovering," he said.