Earlier this month, the factually illiterate morons at the New York Times released the above 10-minute video about the perils of the Chinese health care system. In a failed attempt to blame capitalism for these problems, the New York Times instead dutifully encapsulated the widespread dysfunction that ALWAYS results from government run medicine. As a resident of China and recipient of outstanding private health care here, it was obvious that the NYT deliberately snubbed featuring any private facility while shamelessly and falsely labelling the catastrophic care at public hospitals as capitalist enterprises.
The propaganda piece begins with a man making his own drugs for his elderly, cancer-stricken mother. This is a common practice among poor Chinese who cannot afford the high prices of approved drugs. The approved pharmaceuticals available are invariably foreign made drugs, manufactured mainly by western, capitalist nations. While China actually produces the world’s second-largest prescription drug market, the quality of the drugs is very poor. Chinese doctors actually advise against taking Chinese prescriptions due to lack of transparency of ingredients. I’ve even had a Chinese pediatrician tell me not to give my children a simple cough syrup developed in China. So, while the New York Times contends that capitalism is killing the Chinese, the Chinese are almost exclusively relying on western medicine, created by those evil capitalists to survive.
The video then showcases the ungodly long line outside of the Shanghai Cancer Center at Fudong University. This is where the most egregious of lies is being spewed by the biased newspaper. The Shanghai Cancer Center is a PUBLIC hospital, not a private one. The activities you see; the long lines, scalpers, bribes paid, physical fights with hospital staff, are all exclusively happening in the PUBLIC, communist, government run hospitals. This does not happen at the private hospitals.
The problems faced at the public hospitals in China are a direct result of the tenets of communism: excessive regulation, the destruction of the profit incentive, and widespread poverty.
Along with income from the municipal medical schemes that citizens must pay into, the state hospitals depend on drug sales and tests for their revenues. This makes hospitals fertile ground for bribes from pharmaceutical companies, unnecessary drug prescriptions and excessive testing. The excessive testing is not only a giant waste of money, but in hospitals where doctors get less than three minutes with patients, it is a massive waste of time that the public sector doesn’t have. The government also heavily regulates reproduction programs due to the two-child policy, forcing hospitals to obtain a license from China’s Ministry of Health to perform fertility testing and treatments. Almost all of the licenses are only authorized for the state-run hospitals. Simply offloading the initial fertility testing to the private sector would take enormous pressure off the public system.
Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry operates under contradictory procedures. In the 1980s, the government began divesting in public hospitals and relocated those funds to subsidize prescription drugs for the poor. Simultaneously however, the government put price controls on the drugs making it impossible to turn a profit selling them at the hospital and destroying the profit incentive for developers. The government also invests in the R&D for pharmaceuticals and under President Xi Jinping this amount has increased from about 2% of global sales to 5%. This still doesn’t compare to the nearly 20% other countries invest. With the paltry investment and price caps, the industry is at a stalemate producing garbage drugs and unable to yield returns.
But the crux of the calamitous public health care in China is too many poor people. While eastern, urban China has embraced capitalism and the market economy, western, rural China is still largely agrarian. According to data from the World Bank, urban residents have on average an extra $4500 of disposable income per year while the rural residents have on average less than $1400 (about $4 per day). There are also different medical schemes for residents based on whether they are rural or urban, with the latter having more advantages than the former. Urban employers and employees both pay into the medical coverage giving the urban employee more resources to cover healthcare. Additionally, private companies in the East often provide private health insurance to their employees. Conversely, rural residents rely entirely on local government funding in regions where there is little tax revenue. Bleak resources naturally create doctor shortages. So, if you’re diagnosed with lung cancer and there is no pulmonologist in your province, there is nothing you can do about it.
Finally, there is one more disparaging factor affecting Chinese medical care: the antiquated caste system known as Hukou. Hukou is a system that registers families or individuals based on the province in which they live. Medical and educational services are funded and managed solely by local provincial governments, not the federal government. Residents are only entitled to these services within the province they are registered. If families or individuals move, they are not eligible for the same services in their new area. Thus, Hukou severely discourages mobility. It is a system that condemns the poor to serfdom. If you are born poor in Western China, you will never be rich in Eastern China. They are the peasants and we are the lords. That long line of poor people outside the Shanghai Cancer Center featured in the NYT video have all come from poorer regions and are paying out of pocket for care. *Take note liberals, this is what real systematic oppression looks like. *
I know first-hand just how outstanding the care at private facilities in China are. Wait times are practically non-existent. You don’t have to bribe anyone to be seen. I have been to the E.R. no less than six times here in Shanghai at two different hospitals. I have been registered immediately and sent to a consultation room within 10 minutes of arrival.
Last year I had my appendix removed here. I accidentally walked into the public hospital directly across from the private hospital where I had intended to go to. The emergency room was filled with at least 100 Chinese patients. Upon seeing my western face, the hospital staff directed me to the private hospital across the street, Shanghai United. I arrived to friendly staff, fluent in English. The ER doctor was American and I had an ultra sound and CT scan performed within the first two hours. Within 10 hours, my appendix was removed and I was enjoying my morphine high.
Even the public emergency transport services are completely unreliable in China. Public ambulances simply don’t show up or are too busy. Thankfully the malevolent free market services like taxis and ride sharing apps will take you.
The kind of exceptional care that myself and the wealthy Chinese receive is a pipe dream for the rest of China. The solution isn’t to dismiss the unbridled capitalism that has made the east wealthy and healthy. It is to expand the market economy into the west to give the serfs the same economic opportunities we have in the east. As long as Hukou remains a standard practice, the plebs cannot move to economically prosperous regions, it must come to them. The average IQ in China is around 105. How many smart people are stuck on a farm in the west that could be helping develop new drugs if the government would simply let people make money off of making drugs? Furthermore, as more Chinese become wealthy in the east and use private hospitals, they are helping transfer patients out of the public system and ease the burden.
Capitalism has provided value in a medical system where no value previously existed. The NYT continues to push this illusion that public medical care is magically free in China or any other country plagued with socialized medicine for that matter.
The fact that the New York Times refused to visit even one private hospital, mention the higher cancer survival rates of the eastern, wealthy patients getting private care, or any of the issues I have outlined in this article leads me to believe that they are either intellectually lazy, brazen communist sympathizers, or functionally retarded.
Prosperity and health for all Chinese citizens is not the goal for propagandists at the New York Times. These commissars see the high quality, almost decadent, private medical care awarded to the wealthy and say “No one should be treated this well.” Whereas capitalists see such care and say, “Everyone should be treated this well.”