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The influence of the rural health security schemes on health utilization and household impoverishment in rural China: data from a household survey of western and central China

Author(s): Shi Wuxiang | Chongsuvivatwong Virasakdi | Geater Alan | Zhang Junhua | Zhang Hong | Brombal Daniele

Journal: International Journal for Equity in Health
ISSN 1475-9276

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background The New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NRCMS, voluntary health insurance) and the Medical Financial Assistance (MFA, financial relief program) were established in 2003 for rural China. The aim of this study was to document their coverage, assess their effectiveness on access to in-patient care and protection against financial catastrophe and household impoverishment due to health spending, and identify the factors predicting impoverishment with and without these schemes. Methods A cross-sectional household survey was conducted in 2008 in Hebei and Shaanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region using a multi-stage sampling technique. Information on personal demographic characteristics, chronic illness status, health care use, household expenditure, and household health spending were collected by interview. Results NRCMS covered 90.8% of the studied individuals and among the designated poor, 7.6% had their premiums paid by MFA. Of those referred for hospitalization in the year prior to the interview, 34.3% failed to comply, mostly (80.2%) owing to financial constraints. There was no significant difference in the unmet need for admission between the insured with NRCMS and the uninsured. Before reimbursement, the incidence of catastrophic health payment (household health spending more than 40% of household's capacity to pay) and medical impoverishment (household per capita income falling below the poverty line due to medical expense) was 14.3% and 8.2%, respectively. NRCMS prevented 9.9% of the households from financial catastrophe and 7.7% from impoverishment, whereas MFA kept just one household from impoverishment and had no effect on financial catastrophe. Household per capita expenditure and household chronic disease proportion (proportion of members of a household with chronic illness) were the most important determinants of the unmet need for admission, risk of being impoverished and the chance of not being saved from impoverishment. Conclusion The coverage of NRCMS among the rural population was high but not adequate to improve access to in-patient care and protect against financial catastrophe and household impoverishment due to health payment, especially for the poor and the chronically ill. Furthermore, MFA played almost no such role; therefore, the current schemes need to be improved.
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