Extremely rare event in China: a number of retirees – ” thousands “according to the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website, “hundreds”, according to other sources – demonstrated on Wednesday, February 8, in front of the provincial government headquarters in Wuhan (Hubei, Center-East), to protest against the drop in their health coverage. A social movement, admittedly of limited scale on the scale of the country – and even of this city of eleven million inhabitants, including nearly two million retirees -, but significant of the challenges that will be confronted by aging China in the decades to come.
Retired for a large part of them from the steel company Wuhan Iron & Steel, they protest, according to a video posted online, against the drop in the health insurance premium they receive every month for their expenses from 260 yuan to 88 yuan, or even 82 yuan (i.e. from around 35 euros to 12 euros, or even 11 euros).
In China, employees and employers contribute to health insurance (the rate of which may vary by region and industry). Part of these receipts is placed in an individual account and the other part in a collective account. Retirees no longer contribute but continue to receive this individual share which allows them to pay for their routine care without having to advance the money.
It is this sum which has just been amputated without their having been informed. According to testimony collected by RFA, the retirees have announced that they want to demonstrate again on February 15, if they do not obtain satisfaction by then. According to the site, the police tried to dissuade elderly people from going to the demonstration.
The zero Covid policy has made the situation worse
This crisis is indicative of the strains experienced by the health insurance system. Admittedly, more than 95% of Chinese people are now covered and, according to the World Bank, the share of health expenses borne by the insured has fallen sharply, from 64% in 2000 to 35% in 2019. But as, at the same time, the cost of expenses is exploding, the Chinese must, despite everything, pay more and more to access it.
In 2019, each Chinese spent, on average, 300 dollars (280 euros) out of pocket for treatment, compared to 100 dollars twenty years earlier. On the other hand, the zero Covid policy has made the situation worse, forcing provinces and regions to spend huge amounts of money on testing and containment policy. Some cities have seen their “Covid-19 budget” exceed the amount of their health budget. Now they need to save money.
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