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China to expand healthcare assistance among low-income groups
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19:43, June 22, 2009

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China will gradually expand healthcare assistance over the next three years, by making services accessible to more needy families in both rural and urbanareas, according to a government document issued Monday.

Assistance would be expanded to low-income people with serious illnesses and others according to local government standards, 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, it said.

The Chinese government already provides healthcare assistance to urban and rural residents who live on their 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.

The aid covers their fees to join the new rural cooperative program or to purchase medical insurance, and provides subsidies should their healthcare costs be too high.

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

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

The government will allocate 8.1 billion yuan (1.2 billion U.S. dollars), a 60-percent increase year on year, from the central budget and the lottery fund this year to provide healthcare assistance for the needy.

Source: Xinhua

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