China’s healthcare authority refutes hypes of ‘dropout wave’ in medical insurance

China’s healthcare authority refutes hypes of ‘dropout wave’ in medical insurance
China’s healthcare authority refutes hypes of ‘dropout wave’ in medical insurance

Doctors conduct medical inspection for a patient (second from left) diagnosed with myositis at the Peking University First Hospital on February 19, 2024. Photo: VCG

The National Healthcare Security Administration has dismissed recent hypes of a surge in Chinese residents abandoning basic medical insurance due to increasing fees. It stated that the current extent of the nation’s medical insurance coverage remains largely consistent with that of the previous year.

Western media outlets have claimed over recent weeks that the number of participants in China’s urban and rural residents’ medical insurance has been continuously decreasing.

Many people cannot afford the personal payment standard which rose from 350 yuan ($48.36) in 2022 to 380 yuan in 2023, causing many to opt out of the insurance, resulting in a “dropout wave” in some rural areas, the media reports said. 

Responding to such hypes, the administration on Thursday said at a press conference that per the latest data by the end of March 2024, China’s medical insurance system has shown a stable landscape, and the vast majority of residents still have confidence in the country’s basic medical insurance.

The total number of people covered by China’s basic medical insurance reached 1.33 billion at the end of 2023, accounting for over 95 percent of the country’s population. 

The actual net increase in the number of insured individuals in 2023 stood at around 4 million, officials revealed at the conference. This figure considers the exclusion of nearly 40 million individuals with duplicate or invalid data within provincial-level regions, along with an additional 16 million individuals with duplicate insurance across provinces.

A total of 371 million people are covered by basic medical insurance for employees, while 963 million people are covered by basic medical insurance for residents, the administration said.

The number of employees covered by medical insurance increased by 9 million, accounting for 27.8 percent of all insured individuals, further optimizing the structure of insurance coverage. 

In addition, medical insurance departments have provided assistance to nearly 80 million low-income individuals nationwide in 2023, alleviating their financial burden. 

The rate of low-income individuals in rural areas covered by medical insurance has remained stable at over 99 percent, effectively safeguarding the interests of the vulnerable groups, the administration said. 

In a separate development, it has become a trend for Hong Kong residents to seek medical treatment in the Chinese mainland, particularly in the neighboring city of Shenzhen in South China’s Guangdong Province. 

Many Hong Kong residents have shared tips for obtaining medical insurance in Shenzhen on social media platforms such as Xiaohongshu, also known as Little Red Book, while showing off the convenience and affordability of seeking medical care in the mainland. 

According to Hong Kong media reports, in recent years, the tight medical resources and long waiting times in public healthcare institutes in Hong Kong have resulted in strong complaints, leading many Hong Kong residents opt for medical services in the mainland. 

Apart from being affordable, easy to schedule, and with a comfortable environment, the short waiting times in Shenzhen have become a significant factor. Additionally, with an increasing number of insurance plans covering the Greater Bay Area medical network, seeking medical treatment in the mainland has become a better choice for Hong Kong residents facing healthcare challenges.

Global Times