Why are COVID-19 patients in China able to have their treatment and care fees fully covered?

CIKD | Updated: 2020-04-18 13:10

It is important to note that the information provided in this Series is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.


According to rough estimations, the cost of COVID-19 treatment in China averages 17,000 RMB (approx. $2,428) per person and may rise to 400,000 RMB (approx. $57,143) for severe cases. The cost could top 1 million RMB (approx. $150,000) in special cases. COVID-19 patients are able to have their treatment and care fees fully covered for the following reasons.

First, China's Social Medical Security Fund reimburses parts of the basic medical treatment cost. China has established a universal health care security system. The cost of treating and caring COVID-19 patients is first paid to hospitals with the basic medical insurance, the critical illness insurance program and medical assistance per their respective rules.

Second, the social security fund has expanded the scope of payment. Giving full consideration to clinical needs of COVID-19 patients, China temporarily includes medicines and diagnostic services that fall within the scope of the COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment plan formulated by the National Health Commission (NHC) in the payment scope of the health insurance fund. At the same time, China also adjusts the scope of reimbursement dynamically according to the changes in diagnosis and treatment. For example, not included in the reimbursement scope in many provinces, the cost of using ECMO is now covered by the medical insurance through temporary adjustment.

Third, public finance has borne the remaining part that would otherwise be paid by patients. China has formulated policies to "ensure that COVID-19 patients go to hospital irrespective of cost issues and that medical institutions treat patients irrespective of payment plans." In addition to providing reimbursement through the social security fund, the Chinese government has set up a special fund to cover the remaining part.

Fourth, free medical services are also ensured through the support of medical service institutions and pharmaceutical enterprises as well as donations from all walks of life. Faced with the sudden outbreak, Chinese medical institutions, be they public or private, are not hampered by cost issue in providing treatment and care. The medical teams supporting Wuhan from across the country brought medical and protective equipment. In addition, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) was used to treat more than 90 percent of COVID-19 patients and TCM companies have ensured supplies of most needed drugs without considering pricing and cost.

The free treatment policy helps remove public concerns on medical costs, encouraging the public to get tested, isolated and treated. This has effectively prevented people from staying outside of the prevention and control system and infecting others.

Author: Dong Dandan,Center for International Knowledge on Development

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