Can medical insurance reduce poverty? Evidence from the New Cooperative Medical Scheme in rural China

Stream: Chinese social policy: health policy
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm


“Illness-led poverty” is still with rural residents in China, which has not been eradicated because of developing of economy. Although a near-universal health care system—the Cooperative Medical Scheme (CMS)—was established in rural areas under the planned economy, covering about 90% of the population, it collapsed since the1980s. Consequently, the vast countryside became a vacuum of health care security during the economic transition period, and millions of rural families fell into poverty due to the heavy financial burden in health care. Soon after the end of the SARS epidemic, the New Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) —a government-run voluntary insurance program for rural residents—was launched in 2003. As one of China’s anti-poverty policies, the NCMS is supported by government subsidy, and now more and more rural residents are insured by this scheme. Under this background, this paper aims to investigate the effect of the NCMS on poverty alleviation. Unlike most of other studies using micro-level or individual-level data, this study investigates the issue with the provincial panel data, controlling a series of micro-level economic and social factors. The results reveal that, the NCMS can significantly decrease poverty rate. This paper also critically examines the strengths and limitations of the NCMS on poverty alleviation, drawing out crucial implications for its implementation and China’s anti-poverty strategies.


Genghua Huang (Presenter), Lingnan University
Dr. Huang Genghua is a Research Assistance Professor with the Division of Graduate Studies and the Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies at Lingnan University. He received his PhD degree from the Department of Asian and Policy Studies at The Education University of Hong Kong and bachelor degree in public administration from Sun Yat-Sen University. His research interests focus on comparative political economy of the welfare state, labor policy, and social policy in China. His articles have appeared in journals such as Journal of Contemporary China, Social Policy & Administration, Social Policy and Society, The Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.

Yin Ma (Presenter), Lanzhou University of Technology
Dr. Ma Yin is an assistant professor at Lanzhou University of Technology, Gansu. His interests include social policy and contemporary Chinese socities. He earned his PhD degree in sociology and social policy deparement, Lingnan University, Hongkong, and his BA and MA in Biology and Higher Education from Lanzhou University and Peking University.