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August 21, 2009

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Ministry plans changes to health care assistance

IN three years' time, China's poorer patients will receive government subsidies directly at hospital admission rather than applying for reimbursements afterward, health officials said yesterday in Beijing.

Nie Chunlei, deputy director of the department of rural health management under the Ministry of Health, said hospitals would pay for part of needy patients' medical bills and get reimbursed by government assistance programs or government-sponsored health insurance programs later.

This way, poor patients would not have to pay all medical expenses upfront, which is often beyond their means, Nie said.

Patients could show certificates at hospital admission to prove they are entitled to government aid, said Mi Yongsheng, director of the social aid department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Hospitals would then check the patient's identity with the MCA and pay for part of the bill covered by government aid, Mi said.

The ministries of health, civil affairs, finance and human resources and social security issued a document in June, saying China would gradually expand health care assistance over the next three years by helping more needy families.

Assistance would be expanded to low-income people with serious illnesses and others based on local government standards, according to the document.

The scale and scope of aid would vary in accordance with local economic development, it said.

The government plans to pour nearly 8.1 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), a 60-percent increase year on year, into the assistance fund.

The money comes from the central budget, local governments and donations.


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