In China, Health Professionals Call for Health Insurance Payments for Rare Disease Treatments

A major state-sanctioned political party in China made up primarily of medical and health science researchers is calling for making rare disease treatments eligible for government health insurance reimbursement. The public plea this spring by the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party signals that three years after China published its first national list of rare diseases, Chinese authorities are moving close to devising a way to use government health insurance to help fund the cost of the treatment for such medical conditions. Rare diseases are generally defined as diseases that afflict fewer than about 200,000 people in the country.

The party, which follows the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, suggests establishing a medical insurance management system for rare diseases and the orphan drugs used to treat them, and for large government purchases of the drugs to bring costs down. The treatments are generally very expensive. It was only in May 2018 that China officially first codified about 120 rare conditions, and a strategy to deal with the cost of treating them has been slow to emerge.