Jan 15, 2022 05:33 AM

In Depth: How China’s Health-Care Mutual Aid Industry Folded in Just Three Years

Xiang Hu Bao will cease operations Jan. 28.
Xiang Hu Bao will cease operations Jan. 28.

The shutdown of Ant Group’s Xiang Hu Bao, the largest crowdfunded health-care platform in China, completed the collapse of a booming insurance-like industry just three years after its emergence. The platforms served more than 150 million people at the peak.

Under the online mutual aid programs, participants shared the risk of becoming critically ill and collectively bore related medical expenses. Dominant player Xiang Hu Bao, whose name means “mutual protection,” provided a basic health plan covering 100 types of critical illnesses, including cancer, critical brain injury and heart attack. In 2019, each member of Xiang Hu Bao paid as little as 29 yuan ($4.56)—about the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee — and could receive a one-time payout of as much as 300,000 yuan for an eligible claim.

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