Hainan's novel health cover to make 49 imported drugs available, affordable
China Daily

A doctor performs an eyesight test at a hospital in the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone in Qionghai, Hainan province, in April. (Photo: China News Service)

Hainan's Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone launched a special commercial medical insurance that covers 49 imported innovative drugs in order to lower medical expenses and better serve patients.

The pilot zone is the only one of its kind in China that enjoys nine preferential policies, which allow medical institutions in the zone to import and use badly-needed drugs and medical equipment from overseas that are not yet approved by the top drug authority in China.

With the introduction of the special commercial insurance product, patients can not only gain access to imported drugs they need, but are better able to bear expenses.

"In this way, we are truly achieving the goal of 'enabling patients to access the drug, use the drug and afford the drug'," said Liu Zhefeng, deputy head of the Boao Lecheng International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone Administration.

Thanks to the favorable government policies in Boao Lecheng, more than 100 types of medical devices and more than 100 types of innovative drugs not yet launched in the Chinese market have made their debut in the pilot zone, benefiting patients in need.

"However, not all patients can afford the medical expenses. This is why we are introducing the special commercial insurance," Liu said.

According to the pilot zone administration, it only takes 29 yuan ($4.5) for a Hainan resident and at most 159 yuan for a resident from another region to buy the new insurance. Currently, the insurance-known as the 1.0 version-covers 49 imported innovative drugs and the local authority has been stepping up efforts to expand the drug list.

Zhang Xiaoxu, a research fellow at VCBeat, an online healthcare website, said that in the future, with the deepening of policy implementation, the 2.0 version and 3.0 version of the commercial insurance are expected to come out, and more details will be optimized to form a long-term stable reimbursement system.

"Apart from commercial medical insurance, we are now discussing with local healthcare administrations such as municipal medical insurance bureaus in Beijing and Shanghai regarding the inclusion of expenses for newly imported drugs in Boao Lecheng into the local medical insurance system in order to increase affordability for patients," Liu said.

"The combination of public insurance and commercial insurance is expected to better benefit patients," he added.

In Boao Lecheng, as patients are able to get access to critical imported drugs and medical equipment, their clinical data-namely real-world evidence-can serve as support to accelerate the National Medical Products Administration's approval of the drugs and medical equipment.

According to the administration, this month, three cancer drugs previously introduced to the pilot zone are expected to be launched in the whole Chinese market.

"The pilot zone serves as a green channel for imported drugs and medical equipment. In the future, we look forward to seeing more innovative products launched in China to better serve patients," Liu added.