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Reforms to extend health care coverage

CHINA will gradually expand health care assistance over the next three years, by making services accessible to more needy families in rural and urban areas, according to a document issued yesterday by the government.

Assistance would be expanded to low-income people with serious illnesses and others, said the document issued by the ministries of health, civil affairs, finance and human resources and social security.

The scale and the scope of the aid would vary in different parts of the country in accordance with local economic development, and should be decided by local civil affairs and finance departments.

The Chinese government already provides health care assistance to residents who live on a local minimum living standard and those who receive the "five guarantees" - food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses - provided by local governments to those without relatives or employment.

But the minimum living standard and the "five guarantees" can only be enjoyed by those who have a local residence certificate, or hukou, thus making the health care assistance inaccessible to many low-income groups, such as migrant workers in cities.

A standardized medical aid system with stable funding to provide low-income groups with effective, convenient and timely aid should be established within three years, the document read.

The government will allocate 8.1 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), a 60 percent increase year on year, from the central budget and the lottery fund this year to provide health care for the needy.


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