Rural healthcare security

Updated: 2012-09-13 07:50

(China Daily)

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Increasing the number of serious diseases that are covered by medical insurance will lower patients' risk of being ruined by hefty medical bills. This is particularly true for rural residents.

The Ministry of Health's latest statistics show that more than 340,000 rural patients who had contracted serious diseases benefited from the new rural cooperative healthcare program in the first six months of this year. That plan now covers 20 types of serious diseases and offers reimbursements amounting to an average of 70 percent of the medical bills of patients who have had to stay in a hospital.

At a news conference on Tuesday, an official from the ministry said that the healthcare plan will cover patients who have contracted at least one of 12 types of severe diseases, including lung cancer, in a third of the rural places where the system has been in effect.

The insurance system will also offer coverage for traditional Chinese medical treatments such as acupuncture.

Although the widening of the income gap seen among rural and urban residents has slowed down in recent years, urban residents' average disposable income was still more than three times their rural compatriots' in 2011.

In such circumstances, it is particularly important to help reduce the risk that rural villagers will fall into destitution at times when a relative of theirs contracts a disease that proves expensive to treat.

The central government decided this year that 75 percent of the medical bills of rural residents who spend time in the hospital should be reimbursed by the new rural cooperative healthcare program. It also called for rural residents to pay 300 yuan ($45) each on average into the plan, while saying it would increase its own contribution.

The more rural residents become involved in the plan and the more money they pay into the pool, the more compensation they are likely to receive in the long run. That's why it is important to encourage rural villagers to take part in it.

Even more important, the fund must be managed in a way that ensures all of those who are entitled to the benefits can in fact receive them.

(China Daily 09/13/2012 page8)