Mon, May 26, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Bad medicine

Allegations of corruption by a doctor in China’s Sichuan Province spotlight problems so endemic in China’s healthcare system that patients frequently turn violent

By Carol HUANG  /  AFP, MIANYANG

‘YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE’

Demand for medical care is only set to climb as China’s population ages and its wealth grows, bringing with it an increase in diseases of affluence as well as the illnesses of old age.

In 2009 Beijing launched a huge 11-year healthcare overhaul, so far investing US$371 billion, both to fix the broken system and as part of a broader effort to boost consumption by expanding the social safety net and freeing Chinese to spend more. Yet while insurance has expanded to 95 percent of Chinese in 2011, up from 30 percent in 2003, patients’ premiums and payments are surging at 10 percent a year, Huang said. Those with serious sicknesses can face crippling bills as insurance policies sometimes reimburse only about 30 percent of outpatient and 50 percent of inpatient services.

Doctors in the state system are relatively lowly paid themselves, despite the years of study required to qualify.

“Putting aside ethics is necessary to make a living,” Lan said. “There’s no other way.” To persuade patients to consent to procedures, medicine or hospitalization, staff would ask the same question, she said: “Do you care more about your money or your life?”

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