Over at today’s Asia Times, I have a column up on China’s healthcare reforms. In it, I argue that not since Deng smashed the “iron rice bowl” has the country faced as difficult, nor as sensitive, a set of reforms. Unlike Deng’s reforms, the country now enjoys a certain wealth while access to healthcare has actually decreased. Consequently, the country’s healthcare reforms carry with them cultural and political stakes much higher than many outsiders appreciate. At the same time, the indispensable role of private enterprise – whether pharma, medical device, or hospital entrepreneurs and investors – is coming under question as policies like those of the Anhui pricing model are elevated.
A segment of the column follows:
Rural Chinese have long known that money buys better outcomes; what is happening more broadly within Chinese society is that an awareness of the potential for better outcomes is outpacing access to these enabling technologies. Because of this, the third dimension of healthcare reform must deal with the realization that as Chinese are shown the potential life-saving possibilities of modern medicine, many will find them out of reach financially.
Consequently, it will be difficult to prevent a certain cynicism from growing about the role of additional market reforms, let alone the primacy Western governments want Beijing to place on the role of the free market in solving China’s healthcare problems. In this way, successful healthcare reform is likely to color the country’s attitudes towards future economic reforms at both a popular and policy levels.
The full article can be read here.