Open Access Research article

A preliminary analysis of the effect of the new rural cooperative medical scheme on inpatient care at a county hospital

Chiyu Ye1, Shengnan Duan1, Yuan Wu1, Huimei Hu1, Xiaofang Liu1, Hua You1, Linghao Wang1, Lennart Bogg23 and Hengjin Dong1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Health Policy Studies, School of Public Health, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou 310058, China

2 Department of Health, Care and Social Welfare, Malardalen University, Västerås, Sweden

3 Global Health, Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institute, Solna, Sweden

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:519  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-519

Published: 17 December 2013



China in 2009 committed to reach universal health coverage by promoting three forms of health insurance; NCMS for the rural population, UEBMI for formally employed urban residents and URBMI for other urban residents. NCMS has expanded to near universal coverage in rural China since launching in 2003. The objective of this study aimed to assess the effect of NCMS on inpatient care utilization from 2003 to 2012 at Longyou county hospital, Zhejiang province.


The research was conducted at Longyou county, Zhejiang province. All registered inpatient admissions from January 1, 2003, to June 30, 2012, were included in the study. The PLSQL Developer software was used to select the interesting variables in the hospital information database and saved in an Excel 2003 file. The interesting variables included the patients’ general information (name, gender, age, payment method), discharge diagnosis, length of hospital stay, and expenditure (total expenditure and out-of-pocket payment). Two common diseases (coronary arteriosclerotic disease and pneumonia) were selected as tracer conditions.


292,400 rural residents were enrolled in the Longyou county NCMS by 2011, 95.4% of the eligible population. A total of 145,744 inpatient admissions were registered from 1 January 2003 to 30 June 2012. The proportion of inpatients covered by NCMS increased from 30.3% in 2004 to 54.2% in 2012 while the proportion of inpatients covered by UEBMI increased from 7.7% in 2003 to 14.7% in 2012. The average expenditure for UEBMI insured inpatients was higher than the average for NCMS insured inpatients, although the gap was narrowing. The average length of hospital stay increased every year for all inpatients, but was higher for UEBMI inpatients than for NCMS insured inpatients. For both tracer conditions the results were similar to the above findings.


NCMS has improved coverage height for its enrollees and resulted in increased cost of care per inpatient admission at the county hospital. However, wide differences persist between the two insurance systems in coverage height. Both systems are associated with increasing lengths of stay and rising cost per inpatient admission. We found that around 30% of inpatients were not covered by any of the two public health insurance systems, which calls for further studies.

Health insurance; NCMS; Inpatient; Hospital; Universal health coverage; China; Equity; Length of hospital stay; Cost; Access; Utilization