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The cost escalation of social health insurance plans in China: Its implication for public policy

Listed author(s):
  • Liu, Xingzhu
  • Hsiao, William C. L.
Registered author(s):

    China has been alarmed by its rapid rise in health care expenditures of social health insurance schemes. The health care expenditure per person for the 155 million people covered by the Chinese social insurance plans has been rising at an accelerative rate. We analyze why health care cost in China has risen, and show how other nations may benefit from this experience. The annual rate of increase in health expenditure per capita was only 3.1% during 1952 to 1978, the average rate rose to 8.2% during 1978 to 1985 and then 24.4% during 1985 to 1989. We found general inflation explained one-half of the high rates of increase between 1985-1989. Although China introduced patients co-payments in 1985, the residual expenditure per capita (after adjusting for general inflation and aging of the beneficiaries) increased at 7.4% per year due to the adoption of new technology, uses of more expensive drugs and increased quality of services. While we found the expenditure increases in China were largely caused by uncontrollable factors such as general inflation and aging of the population, we also found the change in Chinese hospital financing and payment policy caused rapid adoption of high-tech medicine and abusive usage of more expensive drugs which largely explained the annual increases in expenditures of 7.4% between 1985-1989. Chinese experience also shows that demand strategy (co-payment by patients) had very little effect to contain cost escalation.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 41 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 8 (October)
    Pages: 1095-1101

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:41:y:1995:i:8:p:1095-1101
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