China's rapid economic growth hasn't translated into an equally-impressive expansion of the country's medical system. In fact, medical services grew by just 4.4 percent between 2000 and 2010, well below the 10.1 percent growth witnessed in the consumer market during the same period.
The main reason why medical services have grown so slowly is the fact that the central government has placed most of the responsibility for providing health care on local governments, many of which are more concerned with developing their regional economies than beefing up their health systems.
A simple way to increase the availability of medical services is to allow and encourage the spread of non-governmental medical institutes. Of course, some are against such a move because they think the central government will lose control of the medical system amid a lack of support from local governments. The central government can keep monitoring the system, but it needs to let consumers choose between private and public medical services.
The author is Zou Zhizhuang, a professor at Princeton University.
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