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Retirees in China hold rare protests against health insurance reforms : NPR

Demonstrators gather outside Zhongshan Park in Wuhan, China, to protest changes to medical benefits, on Wednesday, in this still image from social media video obtained by Reuters.

Social media via Reuters


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Social media via Reuters


Demonstrators gather outside Zhongshan Park in Wuhan, China, to protest changes to medical benefits, on Wednesday, in this still image from social media video obtained by Reuters.

Social media via Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Retirees have taken to the streets in two cities in China in recent days in rare protests against the most significant health care reforms in over two decades.

Largely older Chinese retired turned out at least in the hundreds in the cities of Wuhan and Dalian, singing socialist anthems and even some shoving up against the police, according to social media footage from the protests.

They were demonstrating against changes to medical insurance, ushered in as local governments struggled to repay mounting debts in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Most Chinese citizens draw medical insurance coverage from two sources: a public insurance fund and a mandatory, employer-sponsored personal health savings plan that employees and employers contribute to each month.

The reforms are intended to cover public health shortfalls. They could also free up subsidies for doctor’s visits for people with less money in their health savings accounts. But reimbursement will go down for some outpatient costs, like certain medicines.

The changes are being rolled out nationwide as China tries to recover from three years of COVID-19 controls, mass testing and other measures that strained and indebted local governments. Chinese leader Xi Jinping only recently lifted the stringent “zero COVID” policies in December.

In the last year alone, Chinese provinces werereported to have spent at least $50 billion on COVID-19 containment, like testing and quarantine facilities.

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