2020 health plan to ease burden on people in poverty

Updated: 2016-06-22 07:09

By Wang Xiaodong(China Daily)

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All Chinese living below the poverty line in rural areas will have access to basic medical care and other health services "close to" the national average by 2020, according to a guideline released by 15 central government departments on Tuesday.

The government will mobilize various social resources and take more precise measures to support the development of health and medical care services in poor areas, the guideline said.

The health poverty alleviation project is part of a national strategy to ensure that all people living below the poverty line in China climb out by 2020, the guideline said.

Of the 55.7 million people living in poverty in rural China as of 2015, about 44 percent were impoverished because of expenses related to health, Hong Tianyun, deputy director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The current poverty line in China is 2,800 yuan ($425) per person a year.

To tackle health-related poverty with precision, several ministries, including the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, have organized a nationwide investigation into the major health conditions responsible for the poverty of the rural population, said Wang Pei'an, vice-minister of the commission.

The investigation, to be conducted by grassroots health workers, will cover every household that fell into poverty because of health expenses, and a record will be created for each in a database after the investigation is completed in July, he said.

A report will be made based on the investigation and database to help authorities provide assistance to different groups according to need, Wang said.

To help impoverished regions gain access to more health resources, the government will increase subsidies for insurance for the rural poor and encourage the private sector and nongovernmental organizations to invest in poor regions, Wang said.

Medical resources such as hospitals and doctors are seriously lacking in the 832 counties with the largest number of poor people, a major gap between supply and demand, Wang said.

Despite China's universal coverage for basic health insurance, a person with low income can easily go bankrupt because of out-of-pocket expenses.

For example, a person may be reimbursed for 80 percent of a medical procedure, but the remaining 20 percent can gobble up a year's earnings or more.

Nearly 30 million Chinese are in poverty because of this sort of basic math, according to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.

The foundation has partnered with an IT company to launch an online crowdfunding website to give poor patients direct access to donations for lifesaving medical care, the foundation said on Tuesday.

Shan Juan contributed to this story.