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Insurers Seek Business in Rural Cooperative Medical Care System

Chinese insurers are seeking more business opportunities in the country's rural cooperative medical care system as the value of cooperative funds they managed more than tripled last year.

In 2007, seven insurance companies were entrusted with management of 3.66 billion yuan (about US$522 million) of cooperative medical care funds across the country's rural areas, 233 percent more than in 2006, Xinhua learnt from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission on Thursday.

The companies included the country's top three life insurers --China Life, Ping An life Insurance and China Pacific Life Insurance. They provided fund reimbursement, settlement and auditing for medical care schemes that covered 30.17 million rural Chinese last year, an annual growth of 41 percent, said the commission in a statement on its website.

Under those schemes, local governments paid management fees to the insurers without drawing money from the cooperative funds. Deficits in fund operation were undertaken by governments and surpluses went to the next year's scheme.

Such a mode boosted rural insurance business while preventing fraudulent operations and saving government costs, said the commission.

It cited the example of China Life, which promoted life, health and accident insurance businesses in rural areas and raked in more than 200 million yuan of revenues last year.

Farmers can get only about 30 percent of their medical expenses reimbursed under the present system, resulting in a huge potential demand for medical insurance products, said the commission.

It urged capable insurance companies to seize the opportunity and develop insurance products supplementary to the rural medical care system.

China launched in 2003 the new cooperative medical care program, in which a farmer participant pays 10 yuan a year and gets partial reimbursement at varied rates for hospital expenses while the state, provincial, municipal and county governments jointly contribute 40 yuan for the cooperative fund.

The scheme covered 730 million farmers, or 86 percent of the total, and accumulated 42.83 billion yuan of cooperative funds as of the end of last year.

The Chinese government has planned to expand the scheme to cover all rural residents and double the funding level to 100 yuan per capita.

(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2008)

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