The State Council's health reform office yesterday ordered all provinces and municipalities to set up pilot insurance programmes for serious illnesses by the end of June. "The insurance programme will lift the medical bills shouldered by individuals, alleviate poverty caused by expenditure on medical care and improve social equality and justice," a directive read. By last September, 23 provinces and municipalities had introduced critical illness insurance schemes to 120 cities and counties, the Guangming Daily reported. Yesterday's directive requires the provinces to address the problems they encountered with the pilot schemes and expand their coverage. Areas that have not yet initiated schemes are required to do so. The health reform office also proposed a Critical Illnesses Insurance Information System to guarantee the transparency of the programmes. Reimbursements and the account balance of the insurer should be made public and be supervised, the directive said. In 2012, the National Development and Reform Commission issued guidelines for the insurance programme for critical illnesses. It stipulated that at least half of medical expenses exceeding the average annual disposable income must be covered.