While the USA agonizes over a Health Care plan--- with its politicians steadily deconstructing a universal plan, stripping away more and more potential health security for its citizens--- China's health frontier keeps pushing ever forward.
World health watchers are not surprised. Early on, China DOUBLED the typical lifespan of its citizens, in only 30 years! By improving primary care, and emphasizing proventive medicine, China radically reduced deadly diseases like malaria and schistosomiasis.
You read that right. Impoverished as it was following the revolution after WW2, China improved the life expectancy of its people from 35 years (in 1952) to 68 years (by 1982).
Now China is expanding coverage for hundreds of millions of farmers, migrant workers and city residents.
They are going away from market reform, going back to what worked best for them in the past--- a more socialist health care system. The kind of system that doubled their life spans in a mere three decades.
Yes, the "S" word. Socialism. In the USA, for many, socialism is a dirty word. And yet the beloved medicare system is a form of socialism, along with the other entitlements of unemployment, education--- and all the human resource programs which compose a tiny 4% fraction of the US budget (compared to a whopping 57% spent on the US military every year!)
The World Bank says that, from 1981 to 2004, 500 million Chinese rose from poverty. But just as in the USA, medical costs often devastate many low-income rural residents.
Beijing's answer? No muddling there. They are attacking the problem head-on without hesitation. How?
$125 billion over the next three years---- thousands of new clinics and hospitals will bring quality health care to 90% of the Chinese population.
Sarah Barber, a China-based World Health Organization expert, says, "This commitment to improve equitable access to essential health care for all in China is quite important. There remains the challenge to improve access to high quality care. Once patients have access to health services, it is essential to ensure that the quality of health care is high and qualified staff are available."
People worldwide, in nations without national health plans, are hit hard by the economic crisis worldwide--- increasing their need for help with health care costs.
In China, citizens have been forced for decades to save as much as they can, to cover catastrophic medical treatment costs. The Chinese believe that a strong national health care system (with many more clinics and hospitals) will free vast sums of citizen savings.
Such spending by its consumers will turbocharge China's own economic recovery, and more than pay for the national health plan costs.
However, China believes that one key to controlling medical expenses is managing the price of drugs. The Chinese state-run Xinhua news service reported that the government will set price controls on medicines deemed to be essential, (likely based on a list of 300 to 400 drugs recommended by the World Health Organization.)
"Health care reform is a long-term process," China's deputy finance minister Wang Jun told a news conference. "It is impossible to invest the money today and make tangible process tomorrow."
By 2020, China expects full health care to all it's citizens.
Will the USA continue to fall farther and farther behind, as China advances?