The Chinese government has proposed extending serious illness insurance to cover more of the population. The proposal by the State Council, China’s cabinet, on Sunday said the insurance should benefit all urban and rural residents covered in the nation’s basic health insurance by the end of 2015. Serious illness insurance, so far used only on a trial basis, reimburses patients when their medical bills far exceed basic medical insurance. It is intended to help prevent people being dragged into poverty by medical costs.
According to official statistics, the number of Chinese covered by the scheme has surpassed 700 million, half the population.
The system should be integrated with the entire healthcare infrastructure by 2017, connecting with other programs like medical assistance system, which was established in 2008 to allocate money to help disadvantaged people purchase medical insurance and to subsidize healthcare not included in insurance programs.
As of April, serious illness insurance pilot programs have been set up in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, 16 of which have all their residents covered by the insurance.
In 2014, the serious illness insurance program helped 1.15 million patients in China, with the total fund reserve for the program reaching 9.7 billion yuan (about 1.56 billion U.S. dollars).
The State Council suggested the scheme’s reimbursement ratio should reach at least 50 percent this year and increase gradually in future.
Zhu Minglai, a medical care researcher at Nankai University in Tianjin, predicted that more than 70 percent of bills incurred through serious illness would eventually be reimbursed.