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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

November 30, 2006

Written by C.N.

Health Care Costs an Issue in China Too

In my continuing quest to find stories of how China is increasing becoming Americanized and “capitalism-ized,” I ran across this recent New York Times that describes how thousands of Chinese villagers rioted against a hospital for allegedly failing to treat a three year old boy who eventually died because his family couldn’t pay his medical bills:

The unrest erupted after a 3-year-old boy died in the hospital, where he had been taken for emergency treatment after ingesting pesticides. Reports conflicted about how much medical care he had received. The human rights group said in a faxed statement that essential medical care had been denied the boy until his grandfather, who was taking care of him, could pay. The boy died after the grandfather left to raise money, the group said.

The New China News Agency confirmed that a dispute over medical fees had occurred at the hospital, but also said that doctors there had treated the boy even though the grandfather had not been able to pay the $82 bill. Local residents who heard about the incident staged a demonstration at the hospital that quickly turned violent. People smashed windows and destroyed equipment at the six-story building. . . .

Medical costs are a major issue for tens of millions of people in Chinese cities and hundreds of millions in the countryside who have no medical insurance and no public safety net to cover the soaring cost of care. The government once offered rudimentary medical care for nominal prices in the countryside. But hospitals were left largely to fend for themselves in the expanding market economy of the 1990s. Many ceased providing even emergency care for people who could not pay hospital fees in cash before treatment.

At first glance, we might be tempted to say that this kind of riot against a hospital couldn’t possibly occur in the U.S. However, if we look closely, we will see that many of the same issues that these Chinese villagers face are the same ones faced by millions of poor and working class Americans — unable to afford health insurance or meet the soaring costs of medical care and increasingly, relying on overtaxed emergency rooms who get little help from the government to cover their soaring costs.

In other words, the ingredients for a popular citizen’s revolt against health care costs exists here the U.S., just as it did in China. Just like how the government ignored the effects of poverty, injustice, and alienation among Blacks that contributed to the LA riots of 1992, this growing concern about the affordability of health care is a very real issue for many Americans.

The question is, just like 1992, is the government only going to do something about the problem only after people are so fed up and enraged with the problem that civil unrest occurs?

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Health Care Costs an Issue in China Too" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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