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China's medical insurance to cover all urban residents in 2009

All unemployed urban residents in China will have access to medical insurance this year as the country plans to expand the coverage of an insurance scheme to all cities and towns, according to a government official Saturday.

Li Zhong, vice director of Health Insurance Department under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said at a forum that the program, which has benefited residents in more than 300 cities as of 2008, is expected to be promoted to all cities and towns this year.

The program, introduced in 2007, aimed to bring urban children, students and jobless adults under the umbrella of medical insurance.

China established a medical insurance system for urban employees in 1998 and implemented a new cooperative medical care system for rural residents since 2003.

If the program is successfully implemented, it means all Chinese residents can have access to medical insurance.

Under the program, the premiums are paid by households, instead of individuals. The government gives each participant a subsidy of at least 40 yuan annually, and grants extra subsidies for low-income families and disabled ones.

Residents have to pay a share of premium in the program and their participation is based on their free will. Urban residents with only temporary jobs could also participate in the program.

Li said the program will gradually increase its reimbursement rate and include more common diseases for compensation. The program currently mainly covers expenses of residents for hospitalization and major illness.

There are more than 240 million unemployed urban residents in China. Among them, more than 100 million have joined the program so far.


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