Public expenditure on health care and the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in China from 2008 to 2018

Zhixin Feng, Xiaoting Liu*, Wei Yang*, David R. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study investigates whether differences in individual-level and provincial-level health funding could explain or mitigate health inequalities among older people in terms of non-communicable diseases within a population served by fragmented health insurance schemes. Study design: A national repeated cross-sectional analysis was done of the 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2018 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Surveys. These provided a total of 44,623 persons aged 60 and over. Main outcome measures: Respondents were asked whether they had been diagnosed with any types of non-communicable diseases by doctors. A dichotomous outcome variable was constructed to indicate whether older people had any diagnosed non-communicable diseases. Results: Compared with uninsured older persons, those who were enrolled in social health insurance schemes designed for civil servants as cadres, urban employees and urban residents were more likely to report a higher incidence of non-communicable diseases. There were no significant differences in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases between uninsured older people and those in the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme. Although the incidence of non-communicable diseases among older persons increased over the study period, greater health expenditure was significantly associated with a lower risk of non-communicable diseases. The interaction results between individual social health insurance schemes and public health expenditure indicate that disparities in the incidence of non-communicable diseases among different health insurance schemes diminish as public health expenditure increases. Older individuals with Public Free Medical Services benefited the most in provinces with higher public health expenditure compared with other health insurance schemes. Conclusions: Given the evidence of the beneficial effects of universal health coverage on non-communicable diseases among older persons, these results should encourage policy makers to increase public health funding and to raise the overall benefit packages for social health insurance schemes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107963
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Public expenditure on health care
  • Social health insurance
  • Universal health coverage


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