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Medical insurance plan will expand nationwide

A MEDICAL insurance scheme will be expanded this year so that all unemployed urban residents have access to it, a government official said on Saturday in Beijing.

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

The program was introduced in 2007. It was designed to provide medical insurance to urban children, students and jobless adults.

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

Under the program, which is voluntary, premiums are paid by households instead of individuals. The government gives each participant a subsidy of at least 40 yuan (US$5.85) annually. Extra subsidies are granted to low-income families and disabled individuals.

Residents have to pay a share of the premium in the program. Urban residents with temporary jobs can also participate.

Li said the program will gradually increase reimbursements and include more common diseases. It now mainly covers expenses for hospitalization and major illnesses.

There are more than 240 million unemployed urban residents in the country and over 100 million have joined the program.


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