BMC Health Serv Res. 2023 Jan 14;23(1):33. doi: 10.1186/s12913-023-09025-2.
BACKGROUND: Equity and efficiency are basic value dimensions to evaluate the effectiveness of China’s medical and health service system (MHS) reform and development. Coordinated development of equity and efficiency is necessary to realize high-quality development of medical and health services. This study aims to evaluate the equity, efficiency, and combined efforts in coordinating the MHS during 1991-2020 reform.
METHODS: Data on China’s MHS were obtained from the China Statistical Yearbook 1992-2021. Ratios of urban to rural residents’ medical expenditure and number of medical professionals per 10,000 people were employed to evaluate MHS’s equity. The data envelopment analysis-Malmquist model was employed to evaluate MHS’s efficiency. We constructed a combined-efforts-in-coordination model to examine the coordination degree between equity and efficiency.
RESULTS: Equity of medical expenditure burden significantly improved from during 1991-2007. Urban residents’ 1991 medical expenditure burden was 87.8% of that of rural residents, which increased to 100.1% in 2007. Urban areas’ mean medical expenditure burden was 105.94% of that in rural areas during 1991-2007. The gap in equity of medical expenditure burden between urban and rural areas slowly widened after 2007, with urban areas’ mean burden being 68.52% of that in rural areas during 2007-2020. Medical and health resources allocation shows an alarming inequity during this period, with mean number of medical professionals per 10,000 people in urban areas being 238.30% of that in rural areas. Efficiency experienced several fluctuations before 2008. Since 2008, efficiency was high (0.915) and remained stable, except in 2020. The combined-efforts-in-coordination score for medical expenditure burden was less than 0.2 for 80% of the years, while that for in medical and health resources was more than 0.5 for 99.67% of the years.
CONCLUSIONS: MHS inequity remains between urban and rural China, primarily because of disproportionate allocation of medical and health resources. The government should enhance rural medical professionals’ salary and welfare and provide medical subsidies for rural residents to adjust resource allocation levels in urban and rural areas, control differences in medical expenditure burden between urban and rural residents to a reasonable range, and continuously improve urban and rural residents’ equity level.