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Shenzhen Expands Medical Insurance for Migrants
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The extension of a government-sponsored pilot medical insurance scheme, set to cover all migrant workers in the city, has been welcomed by workers in Shenzhen.

The city's pilot cooperative medical scheme for 1.24 million migrant workers in the manufacturing sector, launched March 1 last year, helps migrant workers with medical fees if they pay four yuan (US$0.50) per month into a special fund and their employers pay eight yuan per month for them.

The municipal labor bureau said Sunday it planned to extend the scheme to cover all migrant workers in the city after the completion of the pilot program.

"I'd love to join the insurance scheme. It will make me feel much safer," said a salesgirl at a bakery shop identified by her surname Zeng. Zeng, who did not know employers are required to buy insurance for workers, said her company had not purchased insurance for her.

A construction worker surnamed Xie said he had heard of the medical insurance scheme from television. "It's a good policy, of course," said Xie, adding that his employer did not buy insurance for him because "the real estate project just started."

The labor bureau also announced plans to greatly increase the rate of medical compensation, following a public hearing at the weekend. The medical insurance fund now pays about 74.42 percent of the outpatient service fees, and about 35 percent of the inpatient fees. The bureau plans to cover 79.1 percent of the outpatient cost, and greatly increase the compensation for the inpatient fees.

According to the plan, some 2,077 medicines used by inpatients will be covered by the insurance scheme, compared with only 900 in the current scheme. The cost of category A and B drugs for inpatients, as classified under the national basic medical insurance system, will be reduced by 90 and 80 percent respectively, compared with 80 percent and 60 percent at present, according to the plan.

The bureau plans to pay 50 percent of the cost of blood transfusion, which is currently not covered by the current insurance scheme. It also plans to compensate 80 percent of the inpatient treatment fees that are above 90 yuan, doubling the current compensation rate for the treatment fees.

However, the plan does not mention any change in the maximum cover of 60,000 yuan. The plan will be sent in the municipal government for approval.

Shenzhen companies are required to pay 26.61 yuan for each worker to insure them against hospitalization. However, many companies are reluctant to pay the fee. Many migrant workers, having little idea about insurance, do not ask the companies to buy insurance for them.

"The pilot cooperative medical scheme for migrants, the first one in China, is a huge success. Few insurance could cover over 1 million people in such a short time," said Wang Tong, a labor bureau official.

(Shenzhen Daily February 28, 2006)

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