Cross-cultural health care reform

cross cultural health care reform

On issues of health care delivery and reform, the United States and China have much in common.

Both are seeking ways to expand coverage, improve benefits and delivery systems, and contain costs. Those observations played out repeatedly during a spring conference at Emory that drew leading experts from both countries.

Healthcare Reform in China and the United States was the third such conference between China and this country. Co-hosted by the Emory Global Health Institute, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, and the China Medical Board, it explored workable solutions for health care reform.

China has a goal of complete health care coverage by 2020. Although 90% of its citizens are currently covered, cost and accessibility vary considerably. Hospital stays are longer than in the United States, medical training is less rigorous, and access to high-quality care is limited. As in the United States, public hospitals and providers in China struggle with the economic and quality issues generated by a fee-for-service reimbursement structure.

Yet health care costs in China are only 5.13% of the country’s GDP, compared with 17% in the United States.

Conference presenter William Roper, dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, suggested that Americans should rethink long-held assumptions that they have the best health care system in the world. Although we spend more on medical care than any other country, a substantial portion of citizens lack care, nurses are in short supply, quality and safety are not as good as they should be, and incentives for physicians are skewed toward specialization and expensive technical procedures, Roper said.

Another presenter, Kenneth Thorpe—chair of health policy and management at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health—outlined the main points of the newly passed U.S. health reform law. Many of its improvements would likely be paid through Medicare reductions and increased taxes on higher income households, said Thorpe.

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