Helping establish private health insurance for cancer in China

Only about 6% of the Chinese population has a health insurance policy that covers the costs of cancer treatment. Roche has teamed up with eighteen insurance companies, including the three largest, to help them develop additional policies that will cover cancer treatment and care. Seminars, client forums and cancer awareness campaigns run by Roche are helping to educate insurers and the wider population about how cancer can be treated.


Like many countries, China is facing a sharp increase in cancer rates. Cancer is now the number one killer in urban areas and the second leading cause of death in the country as a whole. An ageing population, pollution, heavy smoking and the adoption of a Western lifestyle mean that cancer will remain a major health issue in China for the foreseeable future.

As there is limited public reimbursement or private health insurance in China, most cancer patients have to pay themselves for their treatment. A full course of some cancer medicines can cost ten times the average Chinese worker's annual income. Until recently, insurance policy pay-outs did not fund adequate medical care for cancer, and local insurance companies lacked the information to develop such policies.

What we’re doing

Since 2007  we have worked with local insurance companies in China to develop and improve health insurance coverage for cancer. Through our worldwide contacts with hospitals, laboratories and healthcare networks, we provide local and global data on cancer treatment options and cost analysis to the insurance companies.  This enables companies to determine an appropriate pay-out for treatment and to launch affordable cancer insurance policies that cover the best available treatment, access to hospitals and doctors, and cancer education and support.

In October 2015, we signed a contract with a large insurance company in Shenzhen - a city with a population of 11 million people. The agreement stipulates that Avastin is on the reimbursement list for advanced colorectal cancer.

Shenzhen has now become the first city in China where all four of our targeted therapies approved in the country (MabThera/Rituxan, Avastin, Herceptin and Tarceva), are reimbursed. We are aiming to increase significantly the patient access rate in China for Herceptin and MabThera/ Rituxan over the next two years.

With Roche on board, we will have exactly the help we need.
Ryan Bi, Taikang Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

In addition, in association with the insurance companies and a number of third parties, we provide services such as cancer awareness and prevention programmes, treatment and care follow-up and support. Such seminars, client forums and cancer awareness campaigns are helping to educate insurers and the wider population about how cancer can be treated.

We are also working with multinational companies to help them provide medical coverage for their employees. As part of our commitment, we purchase a cancer insurance package for all our employees in China.

Future developments include the “Green Channel Access plan” which helps insured to get seen quicker by the relevant doctors. We are bringing insurers and hospitals together to develop this plan.

Our impact

Currently, we work with eighteen insurers (including the three largest of the country) and four re insurers  and we have supported the development of approximately twelve (launched) new cancer insurance products. Up to 2016, 40 million oncology insurance policies have been concluded and 12-14 million people are covered as a result of this initiatives. This model and associated learnings is being adapted and rolled out in over 20 countries around the world. 

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Tags: Access to healthcare