Integration of rural and urban healthcare insurance schemes in China: an empirical research

Xin Wang, Ang Zheng, Xin He, Hanghang Jiang
BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14: 142

BACKGROUND: Despite the broad coverage of the healthcare insurance system in China, the imbalances in fairness, accessibility and affordability of healthcare services have hindered the universal healthcare progress. To provide better financial protection for the Chinese population, China's new medical reform was proposed to link up urban employee basic medical insurance scheme (UEBMI), urban resident basic medical insurance scheme (URBMI), new rural cooperative medical system (NRCMS) and urban and rural medical assistance programs. In this paper, we focused on people's expected healthcare insurance model and their willingness towards healthcare insurance integration, and we made a couple of relative policy suggestions.

METHODS: A questionnaire survey was conducted in four cities in China. A total of 1178 effective questionnaires were retrieved. Statistical analysis was conducted with SPSS and Excel. Chi-square test and logistic regression model were applied.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The payment intention and reimbursement expectation of the three groups varied with NRCMS participants the lowest and UEBMI participants the highest. In economic developed areas, rural residents had equal or even stronger payment ability than urban residents, and the overall payment intention showed a scattered trend; while in less developed areas, urban residents had a stronger payment ability than rural residents and a more concentrated payment intention was observed. The majority of participants favored the integration, with NRCMS enrollees up to 80.5%. In the logistic regression model, we found that participants from less developed areas were more likely to oppose the integration, which we conceived was mainly due to their dissatisfaction with their local healthcare insurance schemes. Also the participants with better education background tended to oppose the integration, which might be due to their fear of benefit impairment and their concern about the challenges ahead.

CONCLUSION: Even though there are many challenges for healthcare insurance integration, it has received strong support from the mass population. However, more emphasis shall be put on equal financing and equal benefit when making further policies. As the current healthcare policies share the same design concept, principle and method, the ultimate goal of establishing a universal healthcare system is promising.

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