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China to Further Expand Health Insurance

China will further expand its health insurance program this year to ensure that 85 million people are covered by the system, "Health News" reported Thursday.

Information from a news briefing held by the Chinese Ministry of Labor and Social Security on Wednesday said that by the end of this year, a health insurance program for workers will be fully in place in all Chinese cities.

By 2001, health insurance for urban workers had been launched in 97 percent of the country's prefectural-level regions, with 76.3 million people being covered by the system.

In a related development, expenditure on personal hygiene by rural and urban residents has been rising. In the year 2000 alone, per capita expenditure on personal hygiene by city dwellers was 376 yuan (about US$45), 72.5 yuan (about US$8.7) more than in 1999, while rural residents spent 17.6 yuan (about US$2.1) more in the year 2000 than they did in 1999.

Free medical care and housing were among the major privileges for public servants in China, who were known as having "iron rice bowls". The Chinese government started phasing out welfare housing allocation in 1998, and called for more efforts on medical reform during the same year.

(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2002)

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