China targets 90 pct rural healthcare coverage

Most of the population of China's poverty-stricken areas will be covered by a rural healthcare scheme by 2015, if targets set in a Health Ministry blueprint released on Wednesday are met.

The guidelines, covering the 2011-2015 period, stipulate that 90 percent of inhabitants in regions under the national poverty line will be covered by an existing rural cooperative medical cooperative program, into which both governments and individuals contribute.

By 2015, the annual government subsidy for each rural resident in those areas will be raised to 360 yuan (56.7 U.S. dollars) from the current 200 yuan, under the plan.

Vice Minister of Health Liu Qian said in May that such subsidy will be raised to 240 yuan this year, and rural residents will pay a premium of 60 yuan per person themselves.

Rural residents living under the official poverty line will have 75 percent of their inpatient expenses reimbursed as of 2015 and coverage for outpatient costs will be boosted, according to the guidelines.

The ministry has promised to implement more poverty-relief projects in remote mountainous regions as well as parts of Tibet and Xinjiang, among other poor areas.

In November last year, China raised its official poverty line by 92 percent to 2,300 yuan of annual income per capita in rural areas, causing more people to be qualified as "poor" despite the country's booming economy.

The radical revision redefined about 128 million Chinese in rural areas, a number equivalent to the population of Japan, as poor, 100 million more than under the previous standard.

The new threshold of about one U.S. dollar a day is much closer to the World Bank's poverty standard of 1.25 U.S. dollars a day.

gansudaily    Jane