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Asian Bioethics Review

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 171–187 | Cite as

Should a Country Follow WHO’s Guidelines on the Pathway to Universal Health Coverage? A Case Illustration with the Chinese Healthcare System

  • Chunshui Wang
  • Vincent H. Ng
  • Reidar K. LieEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

The WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage published a comprehensive report titled “Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage” detailing strategies that countries should adopt when moving towards providing healthcare coverage to the entire population. The report provides detailed guidelines on how to expand coverage to more people, what services should be covered, and how to prioritize these healthcare resources in achieving universal healthcare coverage (UHC). The main goal of this WHO report is to ensure fair and equitable access for all population groups within a country during the implementation of UHC. In principle, the group’s approach is sound and fair, but we argue that each country must take into account its own unique situations in designing a pathway towards UHC. China has achieved near UHC but did so by an approach that would have been deemed completely unacceptable based on this group’s recommendations. In this article, we provide a brief review of the Chinese healthcare system and argue that the implementation of the recommendations in the report is not always feasible. We argue that there are alternate pathways towards achieving UHC and there are good reasons for China’s departure from the approach outlined by the WHO report. Nevertheless, we acknowledge substantial inequities still exist for various segments of the population and among the diverse areas of China in accessing healthcare services and make suggestions on how to reduce such inequities within the system.

Keywords

China Universal health coverage Prioritization Health insurance Equity 

Abbreviations

NBMIS

National basic medical insurance system

NRCMIS

New Rural Cooperative Medical Insurance Scheme

UHC

Universal health coverage

UEBMIS

Urban Employee Basic Medical Insurance System

URBMIS

Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance System

WHO

World Health Organization

Notes

Author Contributions

CW wrote the initial draft. RL provided advice regarding the main objectives and methodology. All authors contributed to the revisions of the manuscript, providing key intellectual input during the revision process. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.

Funding

No funding except for salaries of authors from their respective institutions.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Competing Interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Copyright information

© National University of Singapore and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Research, Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology HospitalCapital Medical University Beijing Maternal and Child Healthcare HospitalBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Math and SciencesNorthern Virginia Community CollegeWoodbridgeUSA
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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