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Medical Insurance System to Be Extended

The city's labor and social security bureau has said it plans to introduce two new medical insurance schemes for urban citizens and migrant workers next year.

"To improve the existing system, we plan to create two new insurance schemes, which will mostly benefit urban residents and migrant workers," Cui Renquan, the bureau's director, said earlier this week.

Cui said the schemes will cover a greater number of migrant workers who do not have Guangzhou permanent residences and local residents who are unemployed or do not have a pension under the existing system.

He said the new schemes will focus on serious illnesses, with members being charged only a small premium.

The bureau is currently soliciting opinions from other departments, but the schemes should be introduced next year, Cui said.

The number of people in Guangzhou who are covered by medical insurance has already increased significantly this year, he said.

There are currently 2.52 million people under the protection of Guangzhou's medical insurance system, up 65 percent on 2006, he said.

Cui said the city's authorities were also looking to bring the children of migrant workers under the insurance system in the future.

He said the existing schemes, which relate to healthcare and insurance against injury at work, and childbirth insurance, have 1.71 million and 880,000 members, respectively.

These figures are up 39 percent and 31 percent on last year.

City authorities pay an average of 150 yuan a month into each member's account, Cui said.

As a result, members save an average of 2,479 yuan (US$332) a year.

He said the bureau is confident the fund will be sufficient to cover the large volume of additional members once the new schemes are introduced.

Zhang Qiuhong, director of the Guangzhou Medical Insurance Center, said a number of scheme members had complained about private hospitals overcharging them.

She said the center will investigate all hospitals contracted to the insurance scheme to ensure fair pricing. If anyone feels they have been overcharged, they can make a complaint to the insurance center, she said.

(China Daily November 3, 2007)

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