In what to the best of our knowledge marks a first anywhere in the world, a Chinese insurance company has funded an entire hospital as part and parcel of its plans to revolutionise the existing health care model and demonstrate how the health insurance sector can work hand-in-hand with the medical provision-makers going forward. Gaining approval from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission – and built in collaboration with local government – the brand new Sunshine Union Hospital Flung open its doors and began welcoming new patients in Weifang City is east China’s Shandong Province last week.
According to www.postonline.co.uk China-based Sunshine Insurance Group has sunk a rumoured 3 billion yuan (or the equivalent of £319 million) into the unique hospital project, together with the receiving of financial support from Weifang City’s government; so as to become the first of its kind anywhere. Speaking to a number of state news sources during the official opening ceremony, Sunshine Insurance Group’s Chairman, Zhang Weigong told an assembled throng that the dedicated medical facility will ‘experiment with introducing commercial medical insurance in hospital fee payment’, whilst at the same time afford citizens greater access to medical services.
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Described as a Class A hospital – and as such comparable with Beijing and Tianjin’s major medical institutions, the Sunshine Union Hospital has been constructed on 63 hectares of land and is said to be able to accommodate some 2,000 inpatients at any one time. Adding his voice to that of build-partner, Sunshine Insurance Group, the Mayor of Weifang City, Liu Shuguang told reporters that aside from the new hospital the city was also concentrating efforts to reform public hospitals by virtue of encouraging private capital firms to invest funds into hospitals. It’s a widely-held belief that this independently-bankrolled hospital forms a key part of the country’s objective of constructing what it refers to as a more ‘healthy China’; plans which were initially announced when the government rolled out its 13th Five-year Plan (raking in 2016 – 2020).
As part of the remit it offers a guideline to reform China’s existing health insurance system, with a general view to championing a more streamlined and greater access to medical services for its 1.3 billion-plus citizens. This latest initiative also comes on the back of a number of Chinese provinces having begun experimenting with commercial insurance for critical illnesses, so as to complement rudimentary medical insurance, whilst earlier this year the government of Zibo City in Shandong became another authority which gave the green light for e-pharmacies to work in direct conjunction with government hospitals, whereby they were asked to share data with a central platform which allowed patients to purchase prescriptions/drugs more easily. Form a western perspective it will be interesting whether or not this blueprint will be taken on board elsewhere in the world, and if and when future tie-ins between medical and health-providing institutions and dedicated health insurance policy-proffering companies start to take shape.