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Extra Funding Urged for Medical Insurance

Commercial health insurance and charitable donations should be tapped to pay for medical expenses beyond those covered by the recently implemented urban basic medical insurance scheme, a senior official said.

Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister of Labor and Social Security, was speaking during an online interview yesterday at, nearly a month after the government introduced the urban basic medical insurance scheme. The plan will cover all of the country's unemployed urban residents by 2010.

With the amount of reimbursement capped at 30,000 yuan (US$4,000) per year per person, the program will not comprehensively relieve the economic strain on patients suffering from life-threatening diseases, such as cancer or who are in dire need of organ transplants, Hu stated.

"A multi-layer, comprehensive health insurance network is being set up to address people's difficulties in seeking medical care," Hu said.

"Featuring a none-left-behind approach, the scheme, funded primarily by the government, has to benefit as many people as possible," he explained.

At present, the government gives 40 yuan a year to every participant in the scheme residing in the first group of 79 pilot cities. Moer funds are going to families with low-income earners and disabled members.

However, the scheme does not diminish the significance of donations from society, Hu said.

In three years' time, the scheme will be expanded nationwide. It aims to benefit 240 million urban residents, mostly primary and middle school students, as well as the unemployed and senior citizens, previous reports stated.

A list of medicines for children available under the scheme will be released soon, Hu said.

Accounting for 18 percent of the country's population, the 240 million urban residents are the last group to be covered by health insurance.

All urban workers have been covered since 1998. Approximately 80 percent of the rural population is now covered by the new rural cooperative medicare system, initiated in 2002.

(China Daily August 24, 2007)

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