Rural health measures announced

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am

New measures to ease the health care burden on the rural population were announced yesterday, but a senior official in charge of rural health admitted the measures would not solve all problems facing rural residents.

Nie Chunlei, deputy director of the Rural Health Management Department, said the reimbursement plan for farmers joining the country's rural medical care system would be adjusted to benefit more people.

Rural areas that reimbursed outpatient bills should increase reimbursements and cover more chronic diseases, Dr Nie said. Areas that only reimbursed inpatient bills should gradually include outpatient bills, lower the threshold for reimbursements and raise the cap for bills.

The mainland began a pilot medical care system in rural areas in 2003, and by the first three months of this year 830 million rural residents, or about 93 per cent of the rural population, had joined the scheme.

A three-year action plan under new health care reforms announced in April aimed to have all rural residents covered by basic medical insurance. But patients who have benefited from the scheme complain it helped them little when they had to seek medical treatment outside their province or even their county.

Dr Nie admitted that some aspects of the system needed improving. 'The system is trying to benefit everyone, but the size of the fund is relatively small and therefore cannot solve all of the problems of the farmers, especially those who have serious illnesses,' Dr Nie said.

Lin Wanlong, a professor with China Agricultural University, said medical fees were often higher away from home. 'It is not fair that they pay more for treatment but get less reimbursement,' he said.

He suggested raising the amount paid by each rural dweller. The government was aiming to raise the amount to an average 100 yuan (HK$115) per person per year, he said.