China has drawn up a preliminary plan on the health care reform which will soon be publicized to solicit opinions from the general public, Premier Wen Jiabao said on Wednesday.
The reform aims to maintain the public service nature of public medical and health care services and set up a basic medical and health care system to provide safe, effective, convenient and affordable service, said Wen while delivering a government work report at the First Session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature.
"We must resolutely carry out this reform to provide everyone with access to basic medical and health services," he said.
This year the central government will allocate 83.2 billion yuan (about US$11.7 billion) to support the reform and development of health care, an increase of 16.7 billion yuan (about US$2.4 billion) over last year, with the focus of spending on facilities at the urban community and village level, Wen told nearly 3,000 lawmakers.
"We will expand the number of urban workers covered by basic medical insurance, and extend the trial of basic medical insurance for urban residents to more than half of the cities," vowed the Premier.
The new type of rural cooperative medical care system will be fully implemented in all rural areas this year, he said, adding the government will within two years raise the standard for financing from 50 yuan to 100 yuan per person per year, with central and local governments contributions to be raised from 40 yuan to 80 yuan per person
Wen also pledged to hold down surging drug prices while ensure supply and safety.
The measures were hailed by lawmakers and political advisors who are in Beijing for their annual full sessions.
"From listening to voices of the medical sector to soliciting opinions of the common people, the government is attaching more importance to wishes of the grassroots," said Zhong Nanshan, a renowned medical expert and deputy to the 11th NPC.
Song Yayang, manager of a company in the southern Guangdong Province and lawmaker who paid constant attention to health care in rural areas, saw behind the measures that public welfare is becoming a major area attracting funds from China's national treasury.
Health care was ranked fifth among the 16 "topics of most concern" of Chinese netizens who hope this year's parliamentary session would address, according to an online survey by several leading Chinese websites including xinhuanet.com and sina.com.
China established the rural cooperative medicare system in 2003, according to which a farmer participant pays an amount of money, usually 10 yuan a year, while the state, provincial, municipal and county governments jointly contribute 40 yuan to him for the cooperative fund.
The scheme has covered 730 million farmers, or 86 percent of the total, by the end of last year, Vice Premier Wu Yi told a national conference in mid-February.
(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2008)