Healthcare in China: A College Student Perspective

This short essay was a previous homework of my summer semester course "School Life in USA", given by Prof. David Hull, a very nice foreign teacher in UCAS. I'd like to share this essay in my blog, since healthcare problem is arousing more and more concern in China. Though I'm totally not an expert in this realm, I just want to express some immature ideas from a college student perspective, and hope to discuss with anyone who has anything to say about this topic. You're very welcome to comment below.

"Healthcare in China" is really a huge topic. In this essay, I may not be able to cover all the aspects of this topic. Instead, I'll give a brief summary and general analysis of the current status, and then just tell some personal experience to depict the real situation from a college student perspective.

Healthcare, which is always an important issue in every country all over the world, is extremely important for China. As everyone knows, China's economic and social reforms over the past 30 years have met tremendous success, leading to dramatic improvement in the standard of living for many Chinese people, especially for those in urban areas. Unfortunately, the economic growth has not resulted in better healthcare in China. But on the contrary, healthcare has been largely neglected and the development of healthcare is now far behind the economic development in China. Inadequate public expenditure, inconsistent healthcare quality in urban and rural areas, shortage and inefficient use of healthcare resources, unaffordable medical treatment… There're quite a few serious healthcare problems existing in this vast population country. The gap between the need for healthcare services and the capabilities of current Chinese healthcare system is immense. The Chinese government definitely observes and understands the magnitude of this problem. But it's fairly not easy to solve and there's still a long way to go.

As a college student, I haven't got a chance to experience the social medical insurance. In fact, we college students in China are lucky enough, compared to the common non-student people, since the government spend much money on the healthcare system for students. The price of all the medicines in school infirmary is only 10% of the full price. And if a student unluckily has a serious illness and must be hospitalized (e.g. surgery), he or she only needs to pay the 20% of the total medical expenses and the government will pay for the remaining part. However, money is not everything. In my undergraduate school, which is Wuhan University, I did have a bad experience on the healthcare system.

I have to claim that my body is strong and seldom falls ill except catching cold one or two times every year. Even so, I still suffered from the school doctor's impatient attitude and irresponsible diagnosis, listing cheap and useless drugs, which didn't take effect at all. This happened many times, and finally I couldn't trust on them anymore. One of my classmates nearly died there, yes, nearly died, for the doctor forgot to take skin test before injection, and caused deadly allergic reaction. It was very dangerous and he even got a cardiac arrest. Luckily, he was rescued successfully. He said to me, "It's a nightmare to be wheeled into the rescue room. I never felt that close to death. Who can imagine that I just caught a cold but almost lose my life?!" That's really a serious and horrible medical negligence, which happened just around me.

Well, you may ask me: Since the school infirmary is unreliable, why not go to authoritative hospitals outside university? Good question. Here's why: In the hospitals outside campus, the medical expense is much too expensive and full-priced. If you still want to benefit from the student healthcare insurance, you have to follow these steps: Firstly, as a patient, you must go to the school infirmary, standing in a long queue until it's your turn, and then ask the doctor for a referral certificate, proving that your illness is necessary to be treated outside school. There's a high probability of rejection, because the referral certificate shows the incapability and low quality of healthcare of school infirmary, which is actually true but they're always avoiding to admit. If you're lucky enough and go through it, you can finally get away from the school infirmary and get treatment in high-level hospitals. But during your medical treatment, keep in mind that all the bills recording your medical expense must be well kept. Only by doing so can you apply for the reimbursement of medical fee. Note that this application is one chance only for each year. You have to stand in a very long queue, wasting nearly a whole day for the reimbursement. What's worse, once you missed this chance, you cannot apply next year due to the "out-of-date" policy. What a troublesome and disgusting process for sick students! No one cares you are a patient and a student! There may be many possible reasons contributed to that embarrassed situation. But the basic reason can be described as easy as that there're too many patients and too many students in China. In other words, the healthcare resource is far not enough, as is true for the students.

In my opinion, there're at least two ways to solve this problem side by side: 1) Increase the financial input for healthcare system. This can be a long-term solution, which is really necessary to be done to catch up the fast economic development. 2) Optimize the efficiency of current healthcare system. This should be kicked off at once, to better utilize the current limited medical resource.

Comment from Prof. David:

Your solution of increasing investment in the health care system makes sense and represents what I hope is one of the most important social spending items on the government's agenda.

The other solution - make health care more efficient - is essential and it's an example of where someone with your computer skills can make a big difference.

Just as an example: Tomorrow morning after class, I'm going to the hospital for some routine blood work. That is silly, to drive there; struggle with the traffic; sit in the waiting room; and so on.  Coming soon are ingestible diagnostic devices that will record my blood status from inside my body, with far greater accuracy and speed than by going to a hospital or clinic. These kinds of devices and many other related ideas and technologies, are emerging now, and will deliver life improvements to billions of people.

Dare to dream big.

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