Saturday, January 24, 2009

Universal Healthcare for China

Dr. Ming Wang forwarded me a link to a New York Times article which reports that the Chinese government has announced a plan to institute universal healthcare by 2012.

China Announces Subsidies for Health Care

BEIJING — China announced Wednesday that it intended to spend $123 billion by 2011 to establish universal health care for the country’s 1.3 billion people. . . Xinhua, the state news agency, said the authorities would “take measures within three years to provide basic medical security to all Chinese in urban and rural areas, improve the quality of medical services and make medical services more accessible and affordable for ordinary people.”

The article indicates that the Chinese government might be doing this, in part, to stumulate its economy by encouraging Chinese to spend more. Since many Chinese have little or no health coverage, they tend to save a large portion of their income in case they need it to cover medical expenses which, although still cheap compared to the U.S., are rising rapidly in China.

Regardless of the motives for doing so, it will certainly involve a huge commitment by China to accomplish this goal (China announced it plans to spend $123 billion by 2011).

Its a bit ironic that China, with a 1.3 billion population and a smaller economy than the United States, is at least aiming for universal healthcare while the U.S. has so far been unable to do so. Of course, the U.S. population are not big savers so the security of universal healthcare isn't likely to result in increased consumer spending as China is hoping for. However, I think there are other very good reasons that the American healthcare system needs substantial reform. Maybe we can follow China's lead on this one.

Or maybe, Americans will just have to start going to China for cheaper medical treatment.

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