A medical insurance network is expected to cover all urbanites in three years, a senior labor official said yesterday in Beijing.
By 2010, at least 240 million non-working urban residents, such as children and students, will benefit from a basic medical insurance scheme now being piloted in 79 cities, Vice-Minister of Labor and Social Security Hu Xiaoyi said.
Accounting for 18 percent of the country's total population, they are the last urban group to be brought under the health umbrella, which already covers workers in cities and almost all farmers in the countryside, Hu told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office.
The official said both central and local governments will subsidize the insurance project, and local governments are encouraged to set different contribution rates for adults and children, and families with different income levels.
Participation in the insurance plan is based on the free will of residents, he added.
Studies have found that a contribution rate of about 2 percent of the average per capita disposable income would be "appropriate", Hu said, adding the government aims to have the project cover at least half of the total cost of those insured.
The per capita disposable income for urban residents was 7,052 yuan ($940) in the first half of this year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
If calculated on the formula Hu described, an urban dweller will have to contribute 141 yuan ($18.5) to be covered by the insurance plan.
The premiums will be paid by households, instead of individuals, and the government will give subsidies of at least 40 yuan ($5.3) annually to each participant of the insurance program in pilot cities, with more going to families with low-income earners and disabled ones.
Chinastarted to build a health insurance program for its urban employees in 1998, providing basic medical aid to nearly 170 million people by the end of June.
A cooperative healthcare program, launched in 2003, has further insured at least 700 million of the country's 800 million rural residents, according to sources with Hu's ministry.
As the rural cooperative healthcare program cannot usually cover the medical cost of rural residents who migrate to work in cities, urban governments are striving to extend medical insurance to all the 60 million migrant workers who have signed labor contracts with their employers, Hu said.
The Labor Contract Law, to take effect on January 1, will help place more migrant farmers under the medical insurance network, for it prescribes insurance and welfare should be part of a contract, Hu told China Daily after the press conference.
Wang Lin, president of the Chaoyang Charity Association in Beijing, yesterday said charity will continue to have a role to play to cover medical bills of the poor, even after the country provides medical insurance for all.
"For those with serious diseases, donations are very much needed, as a medical insurance plan usually does not foot all the bills," she said.
(China Daily 08/16/2007 page 1)
per capita disposable income：人均可支配收入
foot the bill：负担费用
（英语点津 Linda 编辑）
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Bernice Chan is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Bernice has written for newspapers and magazines in Hong Kong and most recently worked as a broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, producing current affairs shows and documentaries.