China plans pay-after medical payment system

Patients will be able to “pay after” they receive medical treatment as part of a new payment method, China’s Ministry of Health revealed Tuesday.

According to Jiao Yahui, an official with the MOH medical administration division, more than 20 provincial regions are carrying out pilot programs for this method in local hospitals.

In response to media reports that said the new payment system will be implemented across the country this year, Jiao said the ministry never gave such an “order.”

She said a “pay after” method will not be adopted nationwide in the short term due to an immature social credit system and insufficient medical insurance.

But the MOH advocates local governments to conduct pilot programs for this method if possible, she added.

Currently, Chinese citizens must pay first before receiving an operation or treatment.

Patients must pay their bills and then apply for a reimbursement covered by medical insurance, usually more than 70 percent of the total treatment fees.

In August 2011, there was nationwide public criticism after a nightshift doctor in central Hubei Province removed the stitches on the split tendons of a patient’s right hand as the patient did not have enough money to pay the medical fees.

Once the new system is implemented, patients, especially those suffering extreme conditions, will receive treatment first. After the treatment, patients will only pay the part that is not included in the medical insurance. The rest will be paid to hospitals by the government.

The “pay after” method was first tested in a hospital in Beijing in 2009 and was well received by patients, according to Jiao.

Pilot programs are generally going smoothly in many areas, but there are still some patients “disappearing” without paying treatment fees after leaving hospital, which has created risks for the hospitals.

If a runaway patient is covered by the country’s medical insurance, hospitals can get compensation from the government, but if they did not buy any medical insurance, the hospital will not be able to get the money back, said Jiao.

The system can only be promoted step by step. If local governments think it is feasible, then do it, Jiao added.

Xinhua