Billionaire Liu Qun wants more room for private players. In March, the pharmaceutical tycoon launched a program of free check-ups, and cheaper drugs, for 1 million farmers in Wanzhou in Chongqing province.
"Some of the new policies are the same as I offered three years ago, but they don't go far enough," Liu says. "Medical resources remain very poor in the villages, and there is great waste of resources from doctors overprescribing. The provincial authorities here don't give people like me enough support. To solve China's health problems, we should be more like Western countries and allow market models, companies and non-governmental groups such as charities to make their contribution."
Shopkeeper Li Xia, whose son, now 13, has hydrocephalus, welcomes help from any source. Li and her husband, Tian Yingwu, have heard of a hospital that specializes in treating this illness in Changsha, almost 700 miles away, but fear they won't be able to afford it even though they run a small business. "Every parent wants their child to be healthy. I hope the health care reforms mean everyone is equal, and we can get fair treatment," she says. "But I doubt they will reach us here."