China’s Rural Elderly: Good Access To Healthcare?

I’ve touched a bit on the state of China’s public health care system; now there’s an outstanding 4-part series from China Healthcare Blog discussing the state of rural health care and how it affects the elderly.

The main issues center on the lack of adequate health care for most rural Chinese; the elderly, with far more need for healthcare, are more vulnerable to this lack of services. Here’s a good quote from part 1:

The New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) has considerably increased access to basic care in rural China. The coverage, however, only extends to inpatient acute care. This results in a system that is not geared to the health profile of a substantial proportion of its population. Thus healthcare costs increase with age, as health insurance coverage effectively decreases. In rural areas where health resources are already lacking in quantity and quality, the prospects of the elderly living a healthy life past sixty are rather bleak.

One interesting fact that people may not know is that China is aging quite rapidly, due to the one-child policy. This is different than most other developing countries, especially India. The long-term problem is that China hasn’t yet developed a good social net of health insurance or social security; China will slowly be losing that proportion of wage-earners who pay into the system that would pay for those services. So, China has a couple decades to really build up their social nets and provide adequate funding, before those added tax stresses start to hit workers.


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