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China to Promote Rural Cooperative Medical System

The State Council decided Wednesday to accelerate the construction of rural cooperative medical system for its more than 800 million rural residents, which has so far proved successful in pilot areas.

Begun in 2003, the medical system focuses mutual-help organized, guided and supported by the government, and farmers are supposed to participate on a volunteer basis.

According to an executive meeting of the State Council held in Beijing Wednesday, the promotion of the system should follow the principles of voluntariness, mutual-help, openness and service.

"Farmers can join the system with their families as units but should never be forced to do that," it said, praising it as a major part of the country's medical system reform.

It said China will increase the number of pilot areas in the following two years and try to basically establish a new kind of rural cooperative medical system by 2008.

According to the meeting, China will further strengthen its central and local financial support so that the number of pilot counties and cities will increase from the current 21 percent of China's total to 40 percent in 2006.

At the same time, the central government will double its subsidies for farmers to 20 yuan (US$1.2) per capita annually.

An effective supervision network should also be launched to ensure farmers have safe, effective and cheap medical services, said the State Council.

(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2005)


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