He Zhonghua, a farmer in central China's Henan Province, was overjoyed to receive 5,000 yuan (approximately 602.4 US dollars) of medical subsidies when he left hospital. It meant the financial burden on the family would be much alleviated.
The benefit comes from a rural medical cooperative system under construction across the country. Under the system, each farmer pays 10 yuan to a medical fund. Correspondingly, the state and local governments each pay 10 yuan to the fund. When a farmer receives medical treatment, he could have a certain proportion of the medical expenses refunded.
"This is a significant project," said Jiang Zhongpu, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), at a meeting during of the committee's annual session being held in Beijing.
He said in the past, rural residents will be dragged into abyss once they get ill. "Illness causes poverty and poverty in turn deprives them of medical service. That land them forever in a vicious circle."
Jiang said the average annual income of a farmer in Henan (a little more than 1,000 yuan) is less than the total medical coverage for an appendectomy, a very ordinary medical operation.
The current medical insurance system in China mainly targets the urban population. Statistics from the Ministry of Health show half of the 900 million rural residents cannot afford medical treatment for various financial reasons.
In 2003, the Chinese government initiated the program to build a rural medical cooperative system in eight years.
A medical assistance system for rural residents is being built across the country. At the end of 2004, 1,003 counties have started to provide medical aid to rural residents out of a pool of fund already amounting to 1.18 billion yuan. The system has benefited 5.49 million rural needy residents.
In north China's port city of Tianjin, the municipal health bureau started to offer farmers free medical checkups from March 2004.
(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2005)