China: New Healthcare Frontier, or Just Following In Our Footsteps?1 min read
As we read recently in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog, the U.S. is not the only country grappling with healthcare reform.
China is dealing with healthcare challenges that come with the reality of having a billion citizens. It will be fascinating to watch as China continues to move beyond the history of peasant farmers playing the role of Barefoot Doctor to try to provide healthcare to the hundreds of millions of Chinese living in its ginormous rural territory.
International health insurers are jockeying for position in China focusing on the upper echelon of the market – wealthy urban Chinese. Our sources indicate that the Chinese are hoping to leverage deals with international insurance giants to facilitate healthcare delivery to the rural population.
China’s cities offer better healthcare operations; there are hospitals operated by the Ministry of Health as well as a growing number of private facilities, many of which are operated as joint ventures between Western and Asian companies. The best of these facilities offer care at an international standard, with a substantial price tag to match. Although the history of these joint ventures only goes back about 15 years, there are numerous indications that they are susceptible to the twin evils that plague the U.S. healthcare system (which we discussed recently) – overutilization and overcharging. These trends also extend to the Ministry of Health hospitals, where physicians are encouraged to prescribe high-tech diagnostics and the new prescription drugs through a bonus system.
It looks like the U.S. is not the only country struggling to find the right mix of incentives to provide the best care at the best price.