Jan 05, 2012 03:38 PM

Anhui Model A Bitter Pill for Many


In 2009, China started a new round of health care reforms, and as 2012 gets underway, it is time to assess the results. Media reports said the reform, known as the Anhui Model, was the most sweeping attempt at improving the health care system in China, but there are signs it is running into trouble.

Since the first day it was implemented, the policy has faced tough questions and even resistance in many provinces and cities. In November 2011, Li Yaoguang, an official with the State Council's Health Care Reform Office, said nine provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, were reluctant to fully implement the new directive. Even as central authorities are urging local governments to follow orders, the Auhui Model is being changed. The province's government issued a new policy on September 1, 2011, altering the reform plan, a step some scholars interpreted as a setback.

The Anhui Model

At the heart of the Anhui Model is the introduction of a list of "essential medicines." It called for hospitals at the county, township and village levels to prescribe drugs from a list of 1,154 types in 584 categories and not to profit from them. The reform was designed to break a pattern that saw hospitals supporting themselves through the sales of prescription medicines and to lower medical costs for the general public. However, a Caixin reporter visited a dozen towns in Auhui and was told by patients that the "essential medicines" policy had failed to alleviate their financial burdens.
In August 2009, China released it National Essential Medicines List. It was based on World Health Organization (WHO) concepts and included 307 categories of drugs. However, the public complained that the list was too short and it was expanded. The latest list from Anhui expands the list to cover 5,488 types of medicine.

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