Chinese patients may pay more as drug profits dry up at hospitals

Patients at China's public hospitals may be on the hook for higher charges after the government removed a 15% markup on prescription drugs that hospitals were allowed to impose, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The markup was disallowed because the practice was being abused with doctors prescribing unnecessary and expensive medicines to boost revenues, the report said.

China is undergoing a major push to reform its healthcare sector, and officials said earlier this month the country will spend $1.54 billion to subsidize public hospital reform, according to a report by Reuters, after spending $1.7 billion in 2015.

Public hospitals make about 40% of their revenue from drug sales, but the government hopes its reforms will cut that to 30%, according to the SCMP report.

Fudan University public health professor Hu Shanlian

"Now that hospitals are no longer allowed to mark up drugs, the drop in their revenue is huge, especially in bigger hospitals of high rankings," Hu Shanlian, a public health professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the SCMP.

Making up for the shortfall will now fall to local governments that are already facing huge strains from overextending credit to various industries and to the patients themselves.

"Public hospital reform cannot rely solely on government compensation. They need to adjust their medical service fees," Cai Jiangnan, a medical policy professor at Beijing's China Europe International Business School, told the SCMP.

- here's the story by the SCMP
- and one from Reuters