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Free health care system affordable, officials say

OFFICIALS in a remote county in Shaanxi Province say a pilot scheme offering free health care is working well after concerns over whether it could be afforded.

The number of patients taking advantage of the scheme started to wane in May as people became accustomed to the scheme, Zhang Bo, vice director of Shenmu County Health Bureau, told yesterday's Oriental Morning Post. The free service was so attractive that some residents who had left for a better life outside had started returning, he said.

Earlier media reports said the Shenmu County Hospital, one of the county's designated hospitals for the scheme, was crowded with people lining up for treatment. But the crowds are lessening and the cost is dropping, Zhang said.

The scheme cost 9.31 million yuan (US$1.36 million) in May, compared with 12.7 million yuan in April and 9.6 million yuan in March, he said.

The hospitals are also returning to normal with vacant beds available.

Shenmu County in northwest Shaanxi was listed at 92 in the list of wealthy counties in China last year with a revenue of 7.2 billion yuan. It aims to be in the top10 rich counties by 2020.

Officials are confident about achieving this goal, citing abundant coal reserves.


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