China's rural cooperative medical care system will cover at
least 80 percent of counties this year, according to a national
conference held in Beijing on Monday and Tuesday.
The system, which required the government to partly fund
farmers' medical expenses, had made progress and benefited farmers,
said Vice Premier Wu Yi at the conference.
"Medical service in rural regions have improved significantly,
providing farmers with easier and cheaper access to medical
treatment," she said.
This year and in the next few years, the system should be
introduced to more rural areas and benefit more farmers, with the
priority on implementing the policies consistently and constantly,
and exploring more methods of funding, she said.
"Farmers are encouraged to join the system on a voluntary
basis," she said.
Wu also stressed the importance of ensuring the quality of
medical services and equipment provided for rural areas, and called
for more efforts to lower the costs of medicine.
For most farmers in China, finding a well-equipped and cheap
clinic is difficult and the services are often not up to
Financial burdens also prevent farmers from obtaining proper
treatment. Statistics from the Ministry of Health show one third of
poor rural patients choose not to go to hospital and 45 percent of
farmers in hospital ask to be discharged before they have
The government began to increase funding for healthcare in rural
areas and launched the system after the outbreak of SARS in
Under the system, each farm family pays 10 yuan per family
member to a medical fund every year. The state and local
governments also contribute 10 yuan to the fund. A farm family
member is then entitled to reclaim a proportion of the cost of
By the end of September last year, the system had been extended
to 1,433 counties, accounting for 50.1 percent of the total.
About406 million people, or 45.8 percent of the total rural
population, joined the system last year.
More than 57 percent of rural families that joined the system
had made claims by 2005, according to a survey released on
The survey showed that families were reimbursed 25.7 percent of
their total medical expenses, with an average refund of 731 yuan
(US$91). The survey polled 19,195 rural families in 32 counties of
It also showed that 90 percent of families who participated in
the system are willing to stay in the system.
(Xinhua News Agency January 24, 2007)