Financial protection effects of modification of China's New Cooperative Medical Scheme on rural households with chronic diseases

Jing Wang, Lina Chen, Ting Ye, Zhiguo Zhang, Jingdong Ma
BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14: 305

BACKGROUND: Several years have passed since the rural New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) in China was established and policies kept continuous improvement. Its policies on chronic diseases vary by county but have certain shared characteristics. Following this modification of medical insurance policy, this study reassesses the provision of insurance against expenditure on chronic diseases in rural areas, and analyzes its effect on impoverishment.

METHODS: We conducted an empirical study using multi-stage stratified random sampling. We surveyed 1,661 rural households in three provinces and analyzed the responses from 1,525 households that participated in NCMS, using descriptive and logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: The NCMS has reduced the prevalence of poverty and catastrophic health expenditure (CHE), as measured by out-of-pocket (OOP) payments exceeding 40% of total household expenditure, by decreasing medical expenditure. It provides obvious protection to households which include someone with chronic diseases. However, these households continue to face a higher financial risk than those without anyone suffering from chronic diseases. Variables about health service utilization and OOP payment differed significantly between households with or without people suffering from chronic disease. And CHE risk is commonly associated with household income, the number of family members with chronic diseases, OOP payment of outpatient and inpatient service in all three provinces.

CONCLUSION: To reduce CHE risk for these households, it is critical to decrease OOP payments for health services by enhancing the effective reimbursement level of NCMS and strictly regulating the providers' behaviors. We recommend that a combinatory changes should be made to the rural health insurance scheme in China to improve its effect. These include improving the NCMS benefit package by broadening the catalogue of drugs and treatments covered, decreasing or abolishing deductible and increasing the reimbursement ratio of outpatient services for people with chronic diseases, together with expansion of insurance fund, and modifying health providers' behaviors by payment reform.

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