The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
CL participated in the design and conceptualization of the study, acquisition of data, data analysis and interpretation, statistical methods, drafting the manuscript, acquisition of funding, and administrative and material assistance. YH and MS participated in the design and conceptualization of the study, data interpretation and drafting the manuscript. JL, YW, XL, and FC participated in the interpretation and acquisition of data. MH participated in the design and conceptualization of study, acquisition of data, drafting the manuscript, acquisition of funding, and supervision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Although much public scrutiny and academic attention has focused on the evaluations of system implementation since the beginning of New Rural Cooperative Medical System (NRCMS) in China, few studies have systematically evaluated the achievements of the stated policy goals. The purpose of this study is to examine to what extent the policy goals of NRCMS have been achieved.
Using multistage sampling processes, two rounds of cross-sectional household surveys including 9787 and 7921 rural households were conducted in Eastern China in year 2000 and year 2008, respectively. A pre- and post-implementation comparison was used to evaluate the achievement of policy goals in three measures: impoverishment from major health hazards, household financial risk from medical expenses, and rural income inequity. Intention surveys were also applied to find out potential obstacles in the implementation of NRCMS.
The rate of re-impoverishment from health hazard was reduced from 2.69 % ex ante to 2.12 % ex post, a decrease of 21.13 %. The severity of impoverishment fell from a previous 4.66 % to 3.02 %, a decline of 35.18 %. Economic risk of medical treatment population relative to the whole population fell from 2.62 ex ante to 2.03 ex post, a 22.52 % reduction. As indication of effect on improving income equity, the Gini coefficient fell from 0.4629 to 0.4541. The effects of NRCMS were significantly better than those of RCMS. Despite the preliminary achievements, our intention survey of key respondents identified that technical difficulties in actuarial funding and more sustainable reimbursement schedules has become the most challenging barriers in achieving the goals of NRCMS, while raising the insurance premium on NRCMS was no longer as big a barrier.
With NRCMS, China has established a medical security system to reduce the financial burden of healthcare on rural residents. NRCMS has achieved some positive though limited effects; but technical difficulties in the implementation of NRCMS have become barriers to achieve the pre-set policy goals. Efforts should be made to improve the capacity building in the design of the reimbursement schemes for the implementers of NRCMS, such as identifying medical impoverishment, calculating actuarial funding levels for the risk pooling.