Medical Cards Cover Children in Need

About 2 million local children have been issued with cards under an innovative new medical insurance system.

The Shanghai Multi-aid Foundation issues the medical cards for Hospitalized Children, which was set up in 1996 by the city's health bureau, education commission and Red Cross association.

"The non-profit foundation has explored new ways for social medical insurance reform," said Peng Qiaodi, director of the foundation. "It collects money from the general population and helps families in need. The multi-aid mechanism has progressed into an important part of the social medical security system."

Unlike profit-run medical insurance schemes, all local minors are eligible to join the foundation, regardless of their medical conditions. As of last month, the total coverage was more than 91 per cent, which is higher than that offered by commercial insurance schemes.

The foundation will pay 30 to 44 per cent of the hospital costs up to a maximum of 80,000 yuan (US$9,650).

Participants need to pay only 30 yuan (US$3.6) to 40 yuan (US$4.8) each year.

For children suffering from serious diseases, such as haemophilia and malignant tumours, the foundation will shoulder medical cost even after hospitalization.

The foundation pays the medical costs directly to the city's 352 hospitals rather than paying reimbursements after treatment. This is regarded as more convenient and helpful for patient's families.

By September 2001, a total of 334,000 children had benefited from the foundation, receiving 250 million yuan (US$30 million) in financial support. This has greatly lightened the economic burden on families and ensured sick children receive adequate health care.

"Without the support from the foundation, my daughter would suffer because of our lack of money," said Yang Rongqing, a father of a sick child.

The foundation has been running successfully for five years. "The system should contribute to the efficient management and collective health care efforts of the government, schools and hospitals," said Peng.

To best utilize its finances, the foundation invites eight medical experts to inspect the books of participating hospitals.

"We are confident the foundation will soon cover all local children with medical insurance," said Peng.

(China Daily 10/10/2001)

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