Moving towards universal health insurance in China: Performance, issues and lessons from Thailand

Cheng Li, Xuan Yu, James R.G. Butler, Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan, Min Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    63 Citations (Scopus)


    China is now in the course of implementing a new round of health system reforms. Universal health insurance coverage through the basic social medical insurance system is high on the reform agenda. This paper examines the performance of China's current social medical insurance system in terms of revenue collection, risk pooling, the benefit package, and provider payment mechanisms based on a literature review and publicly available data. On the basis of critical assessment, the paper attempts to address the issues challenging China as it moves towards universal coverage. Focusing in particular on the reform experience in Thailand as it implemented universal coverage, the following policy implications for further reform in China are articulated, taking into account China's particular circumstances: firstly, the gaps in the benefit package across different schemes should be further reduced; secondly, the prevailing fee-for-service payment system needs to be transformed; thirdly, the primary health care delivery and referral system needs to be strengthened in coordination with the reform of the health insurance system; and fourthly, raising the risk pooling level and integrating fragmented insurance schemes should be long-run objectives of reform.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)359-366
    Number of pages8
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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