China's State Council, or Cabinet, passed a long awaited medical reform plan which promised to spend 850 billion yuan (123 billion U.S. dollars) by 2011 to provide universal medical service to the country's 1.3 billion population.
The plan was studied and passed at Wednesday's executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.
Medical reform has been deliberated by authorities since 2006.
Growing public criticism of soaring medical fees, a lack of access to affordable medical services, poor doctor-patient relationship and low medical insurance coverage compelled the government to launch the new round of reforms.
According to the reform plan, authorities would take measures within three years to provide basic medical security to all Chinese in urban and rural areas, improve the quality of medical services, and make medical services more accessible and affordable for ordinary people.
The meeting decided to take the following five measures by 2011:
-- Increase the amount of rural and urban population covered by the basic medical insurance system or the new rural cooperative medical system to at least 90 percent by 2011. Each person covered by the systems would receive an annual subsidy of 120 yuan from 2010.
-- Build a basic medicine system that includes a catalogue of necessary drugs produced and distributed under government control and supervision starting from this year. All medicine included would be covered by medical insurance, and a special administration for the system would be established.
-- Improve services of grassroots medical institutions, especially hospitals at county levels, township clinics or those in remote villages, and community health centers in less developed cities.
-- Gradually provide equal public health services in both rural and urban areas in the country.
-- Launch a pilot program starting from this year to reform public hospitals in terms of their administration, operation and supervision, in order to improve the quality of their services.
Government at all levels would invest 850 billion yuan by 2011 in order to carry out the five measures according to preliminary estimates.
The meeting said the five measures aimed to provide universal basic medical service to all Chinese citizens, and pave the road for further medical reforms.
The meeting also decided to publish a draft amendment to the country's regulation on the administration on travel agencies for public debate.
It also ratified a list of experts and scholars who would receive special government allowances.