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Chinese pin hope on new health care reform plan

Calling the new plan "a good new year gift (from the government)", Li said the upcoming reforms coincide with China's efforts to build a harmonious society. "It will be a milestone during China's transition to a modern country."

China began reforming its medical system in 1992 as it tried to abolish a system under which governments covered more than 90 percent of medical expenses to switch to a market-oriented one.

Li, who had been invited to draft the reform plan in 2006, said the reform of public hospitals will be at the heart of the reforms.

Due to a lack of government funding, public hospitals have, for years, mainly operated using profits from medical services and drug prescriptions.

Health Minister Chen Zhu said two weeks ago that China aims to increase government subsidies to public hospitals to cut their involvement with drug sales so as to cut drug prices, medical supply prices and physical check-up fees.

Chen said the government will select several cities to try out reforms in public hospitals. The trial period will last until 2011.

Chinese netizens responded to the reform plan with mixed views. At the news channel of the, netizens left more than 12,000 comments in less than one day.

Some left positive responses, but many continued to pour out complaints about high medical fees and poor medical services.

"It (the criticism) is understandable," professor Cai Renhua said. "So far we only know the goals and principles of the reform. People need to see substantial benefits."

Some netizens called for free medical services for all Chinese citizens. Professor Li said a "free for all" scheme is "impossible" in China. "Even for developed counties, it is difficult."

Li said health care reform is a difficult task around the world. "I am glad to see that the government is determined to push forward the reform, which has the public good as its goal."


Editor:Liu Anqi