Multi-source financing for tuberculosis treatment in China: key issues and challenges.
BACKGROUND: The End Tuberculosis (TB) Strategy of the World Health Organization highlights the need for patient-centered care and social protection measures that alleviate the financial hardships faced by many TB patients. In China, TB treatments are paid for by earmarked government funds, social health insurance, medical assistance for the poor, and out-of-pocket payments from patients. As part of Phase III of the China-Gates TB project, this paper introduces multi-source financing of TB treatment in the three provinces of China and analyzes the challenges of moving towards universal coverage and its implications of multi-sectoral engagement for TB care. MAIN TEXT: The new financing policies for TB treatment in the three provinces include increased reimbursement for TB outpatient care, linkage of TB treatment with local poverty alleviation programs, and use of local government funds to cover some costs to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. However, there are several challenges in reducing the financial burdens faced by TB patients. First, medical costs must be contained by reducing the profit-maximizing behaviors of hospitals. Second, treatment for TB and multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is only available at county hospitals and city or provincial hospitals, respectively, and these hospitals have low reimbursement rates and high co-payments. Third, many patients with TB and MDR-TB are at the edge of poverty, and therefore ineligible for medical assistance, which targets extremely poor individuals. In addition, the local governments of less developed provinces often face fiscal difficulties, making it challenging to use of local government funds to provide financial support for TB patients. We suggest that stakeholders at multiple sectors should engage in transparent and responsive communications, coordinate policy developments, and integrate resources to improve the integration of social protection schemes. CONCLUSIONS: The Chinese government is examining the establishment of multi-source financing for TB treatment by mobilization of funds from the government and social protection schemes. These efforts require strengthening the cooperation of multiple sectors and improving the accountability of different government agencies. All key stakeholders must take concrete actions in the near future to assure significant progress toward the goal of alleviating the financial burden faced by TB and MDR-TB patients.
Long, Q; Jiang, W-X; Zhang, H; Cheng, J; Tang, S-L; Wang, W-B
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