How effectively can the New Cooperative Medical Scheme reduce catastrophic health expenditure for the poor and non-poor in rural China?

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Zhang, Luying ; Cheng, Xiaoming ; Tolhurst, Rachel ; Tang, Shenglan ; Liu, Xiaoyun

OBJECTIVES: China has implemented the New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) in rural areas since 2003 to provide financial protection to its rural population. This article explores the effect of NCMS on relieving catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) among the poor and non-poor groups.\ud \ud METHODS: A questionnaire survey was conducted in three counties, with a random sample of 358 poor and 523 non-poor NCMS enrollees who used inpatient services and obtained NCMS reimbursement in 2005.\ud \ud RESULTS: Majority of NCMS enrollees suffered CHE because of using inpatient services; the occurrence and intensity of CHE was greater among poor inpatients. NCMS reimbursement helped relieve CHE to a certain degree. Poor inpatients benefited more from NCMS than non-poor, but the effects varied among counties. Cost control measures and other medical financial assistance (MFA) helped reduce inpatients' economic burden.\ud \ud CONCLUSIONS: The objective of NCMS is only partly achieved. However, NCMS has promoted equity in health financing as poor inpatients can acquire more protection than the non-poor. Our analysis suggests that efforts should be made to improve NCMS design, strengthen cost containment and extend other MFA to further relieve economic burden of disease.
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    Table 3 Socio-economic features of sampled population, China, 2005 Yuexi Qianjiang Datong Poor Non-poor Poor Non-poor Poor Non-poor 143 148 89 201 126 174 40.6 40.8 54.4 40.9 45.4 36.9 Table 6 Overshoot* of catastrophic health expenditure in three counties, China, 2005 25.8% 7.3% 24.0% 20.2%

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