Health as a right . . .
China’s new Basic Medical and Health Care Promotion Law, passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) in late December, will come into effect on June 1, 2020. The Law is significant as it establishes for the first time that the Chinese state has an obligation to both respect and protect the right to health of all citizens, and that all citizens have the right to access basic medical services. The new Law also enshrines the right of patients to obtain information on their medical diagnosis, treatment, risks, and fees, and stipulates that medical personnel should protect the privacy of patients.
Legal status for private hospitals . . .
The Law further grants legal status to private hospitals – both for- and non-profit hospitals. It draws a clear distinction between for- and non-profit hospitals, prohibits investors and operators of non-profits from deriving personal profits from hospital operations, and forbids government hospitals from setting up for-profit medical services in collaboration with private operators. It also grants private non-profits preferential treatment in terms of taxes, government subsidies, and other fees. This official endorsement of private providers does come with a caveat, as the Law stipulates that government hospitals will remain the “leaders” in the provision of basic medical services, and that for-profit hospitals will assume a complementary role to non-profit hospitals.
‘Open legislation’ process . . .
The NPCSC conducted three sets of online public consultations between 2017 and 2019 for each of the new versions of the Law, which were made public. The input of online commentators – as well as that of NPC delegates – did influence the final version of the Law, including new tax breaks for private non-profit hospitals. China’s Basic Medical and Health Care Promotion Law suggests that there has been some progress in the reform of the country’s health-care system, a timely development given the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Wuhan and beyond.
- Central Government of the People’s Republic of China: 中华人民共和国基本医疗卫生与健康促进法
- NPC Observer: Basic Healthcare and Health Promotion Law
- NPC: 全国人民代表大会宪法和法律委员会关于《中华人民共和国基本医疗卫生与健康