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Healthcare Plan to Be Extended

Five percent of the working-age urban population in the capital will this year be brought under a medicare network that covers serious diseases, making Beijing and Shanghai the first two cities to meet their healthcare goals for urban residents.

The initiative will benefit 250,000 Beijingers -- 5 percent of the total working-age population with official residence in the capital -- according to a report by the Beijing Morning Post.

Since September, minors and retired elderly people who do not have medical insurance have been covered by a special scheme that includes the treatment of serious diseases.

As a result, the basic medical insurance scheme, devised to shield the country's urban population from heavy medical bills for serious illnesses, will cover all of the intended beneficiaries living in Beijing this year.

Shanghai has a similar target, while the national goal is in 2010.

Meanwhile, a source with the Beijing labor and social security bureau said the authorities were mulling over a separate program for the city's 70,000 disabled residents as well as the 80,000 people living on survival allowances from the government.

"A policy to help the underprivileged with medical costs arising from the treatment of serious diseases should be released within the year," a division leader with the bureau told the Beijing Morning Post.

Elderly people without medical insurance have been encouraged to seek treatment for minor illnesses such as colds and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension from community healthcare centers, the official said.

They will be given discounts on outpatient service fees at community clinics, he said.

Under the framework of the healthcare reform plan released at the end of last year, central and local governments pledged to beef up investments in healthcare to ease access to medical services.

In response, authorities in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, have issued a plan to expand the provincial medical assistance system, according to a report by the Guangzhou-based New Express Daily.

Under the plan, poor residents will receive more financial help and be given access to a wider range of hospitals when seeking treatment, the report said.

(China Daily January 2, 2008)

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