The rural medical care system launched in 2003 has been widely
acknowledged by Chinese farmers and helped reduce their healthcare
burdens, according to an assessment team.
More farmers had access to medical services since it was
introduced to rural regions as a pilot scheme, said Wu Ming, a
member of the assessment team and professor at Peking
The team, composed of experts from the Peking University, the
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Ministry of Health, conducted the assessment from March to
The assessment was launched in hospitals and township clinics in
257 pilot counties of 29 provinces and regions, and also
covers70,769 farmers in another 32 counties of 17 provinces. Nearly
500 farmers took part in group discussions and interviews with the
Ninety percent of the polled farmers who joined the system said
they were willing to continue another year, and 51 percent who had
not joined said they would do so the next year.
Ninety-one percent of the funds collected by the system was
spent on farmers in 2005, while the figure was 71 percent in
The system also helped optimize the use of medical resources in
rural regions, regulated the management of medical institutes and
curbed the increase in medical expense, said Wu.
However, problems were also revealed from the pilot system,
which needed adjustments in the fund-raising, supervision and
insurance capacity, he noted.
The team recommended that in some comparatively developed rural
regions, the funds collected from farmers should rise according to
their incomes, and the government subsidy should rise in accordance
with revenue increases.
The co-existence of the rural medicare system and the urban
social medical insurance system should be explored and encouraged
in well-off rural areas as well, Wu said.
China's rural cooperative medical system, which requires the
government to partly fund farmers' medical expenses, has enrolled
396 million farmers, about 44.7 percent of the total rural
population, said the Ministry of Health earlier this month.
The government began to increase input into healthcare in rural
areas after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome
(SARS) in 2003.
It is to double the allowances of 20 yuan (US$2.5) this year for
each farmer participating in the rural cooperative medicare
With the new policy, a farmer puts 10 yuan (US$1.25) a year into
his personal medical care account and the government adds another
40 yuan (US$5). The government will pay a maximum of 65 percent of
his medical charges a year.
The total allowance provided by the central government this year
would reach 4.23 billion yuan (US$529 million), said ministry
spokesman Mao Qun'an.
The new rural cooperative medical system is to be available to
80 percent of counties by the end of 2008 and all counties by
This year, the Ministry of Health is planning to train 500,000
medical staff in the pilot counties, and send 3,900 urban doctors
to assist in rural regions.
(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2006)