Mainland launches drive to extend urban health insurance scheme

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 May, 2007, 12:00am

Vice-Premier Wu Yi was rallying support yesterday for a pilot health care programme that aims to extend basic medical insurance to more urban residents.

At a conference designed to spell out the aims of the programme and kick-start the initiative, Ms Wu called for concerted efforts from government at all levels to 'resolutely get the deed done', Xinhua reported last night.

The authorities' efforts should be focused on meeting city dwellers' primary medical needs such as the treatment of major illnesses and diseases, she said.

Regional governments should set aside funds to help cover part of the cost of treating major diseases, the vice-premier said. They should decide the amount to be set aside and work out standards for the programme according to their level of economic development.

Ms Wu also underscored the significance of the trial programme, touting it as 'a major decision by the central government to advance social justice and promote harmony'.

Analysts say yesterday's meeting helped kick-start the ambitious urban health-care programme, which was approved late last month at a State Council meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao .

One or two cities in relatively affluent provinces will be chosen to test the programme's feasibility.

The new programme is considered an extension of the Urban Employee Basic Health Insurance Scheme (BHIS), launched in 1997, which aimed to cover most of the employed population in urban areas.

The trial plan allows children, students and unemployed urban residents - who are not covered by BHIS - to gain basic medical cover.

According to statistics from the labour and social security authorities, the 1997 system for employed urban residents benefits only 157 million of the country's population, now in excess of 1.3 billion people.