Corrupt Practices in Chinese Medical Care: The Root in Public Policies and a Call for Confucian-Market Approach
Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 2007 June; 17(2): 111-131
This paper argues that three salient corrupt practices that mark contemporary Chinese health care, namely the over-prescription of indicated drugs, the prescription of more expensive forms of medication and more expensive diagnostic work-ups than needed, and illegal cash payments to physicians-i.e., red packages-result not from the introduction of the market to China, but from two clusters of circumstances. First, there has been a loss of the Confucian appreciation of the proper role of financial reward for good health care. Second, misguided governmental policies have distorted the behavior of physicians and hospitals. The distorting policies include (1) setting very low salaries for physicians, (2) providing bonuses to physicians and profits to hospitals from the excessive prescription of drugs and the use of more expensive drugs and unnecessary expensive diagnostic procedures, and (3) prohibiting payments by patients to physicians for higher quality care. The latter problem is complicated by policies that do not allow the use of governmental insurance and funds from medical savings accounts in private hospitals as well as other policies that fail to create a level playing field for both private and government hospitals. The corrupt practices currently characterizing Chinese health care will require not only abolishing the distorting governmental policies but also drawing on Confucian moral resources to establish a rightly directed appreciation of the proper place of financial reward in the practice of medicine.
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