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Pilot Scheme Benefits Migrant Workers

Li Caiyun and her husband do not need to worry about expensive hospital bills now their company has joined a local government medical insurance pilot scheme, specially designed for migrant workers.

It takes them only 10 minutes to walk to their local healthcare centre, where they spend as little as 20 yuan (US$2.5) for medicines for ailments such as colds and fevers, said the couple from east China's Anhui Province.

Before the scheme, they had to spend about 100 yuan (US$12.5) for medicine to cure a simple cold at a government-funded hospital, which is several kilometers away from their home.

After a successful one-year trial of the pilot scheme, Shenzhen municipal government recently decided to extend it across the whole city, not just districts inhabited by migrant workers.

According to the scheme, companies buy medical insurance for their employees by paying 8 yuan (US$1) a month.

Employees like Li Caiyun, who works with her husband at a furniture company in Longgang District of Shenzhen, have to pay just 4 yuan (50 US cents) every month.

Migrant workers need to spend just 12 yuan (US$1.5) to see doctors at a designated clinic or healthcare centre, and are reimbursed if the charge for a single service is less than 90 yuan (US$11).

Hospital patients can claim back all of their medical bills, up to a maximum of 60,000 yuan (US$7,400).

It is one of the first trials in the country to solve the problem of rising medical costs for low-income migrant workers.

Official figures show that 5,500 companies joined the scheme by the end of last year and at least 1.2 million migrant workers are covered.

A total of 132 designated medical centers have treated 3.85 million outpatients and 1,206 inpatients.

Guan Lingen, director of Shenzhen Labour and Social Securities Bureau, said the scheme is expected to help 3 million migrant laborers by the end of this year, or nearly half of the total migrant labour force in the city.

To further crack down on unlicensed clinics, which many migrant workers chose to visit before the implementation of the scheme because of convenience and low charges, the government plans to set up a clinic and a community healthcare service centre in all districts with migrant workers.

(China Daily April 3, 2006)

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