BEIJING, April 9 (Xinhua) -- Chinese authorities unveiled a package of healthcare measures on Wednesday, which consist of relaxing price controls covering non-public hospital services and encouraging the private sector to build health institutions.
The measures were jointly announced in a circular by the National Development and Reform Commission, the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.
The measures are aimed to give private organizations more leeway to charge what they want for medical services to encourage competition.
Authorities want nongovernmental capital to enter the healthcare sector as soon as possible to increase the supply of medical services, which will help ease the problem of inadequate health provision available to the public.
All provincial governments have to publicize a directory, listing all public hospitals within their regions before the end of June, the circular said.
It stated that all non-public hospitals should be included in the country's public medical insurance schemes, and government departments should implement the same reimbursement policy for both public and private hospitals.
China's public medical insurance schemes include health insurance for urban employees, jointly paid by governments, employers and individuals; there is also health insurance for non-working urban dwellers and rural cooperative health insurance for rural residents, which are co-paid by governments and individuals.
The circular also recommended all non-public hospitals to set up a transparent pricing system, and costs of services should be reasonable.
Related governmental departments should strengthen supervision on pricing behaviors among non-public and public health institutions, and safeguard patients' rights, it said.
The measures come two weeks after an executive meeting of the State Council, China's cabinet, said the country would work to establish a universal medical insurance system, speed up reform in public hospitals, and relax market entry requirements for the private sector to build health institutions.
Non-public and public hospitals will be treated equally in terms of access to medical insurance programs and other qualifications, said a statement following the executive meeting.
The number of public hospitals will be controlled and medical resources will be optimized, according to the statement.
Last November, a reform blueprint approved by the Third Plenary Session of the Communist Party of China's 18th Central Committee stated that the government should encourage the growth of medical institutions run by private companies or non-governmental organizations.
There were about 5,400 private hospitals on China's mainland in 2008, which rose to 10,877 by the end of October 2013, according to official figures.
Public hospitals, which provide 90 percent of China's medical services, totaled 13,440 by the end of October. Public hospitals in China are financed by the state and regulated by health authorities.
Private hospitals offer patients more individual attention and better service, though they are more expensive. They can also help relieve pressure on an overburdened government system.