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Medical Insurance Reg Benefits Migrant Workers
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About 3 million migrant workers are to benefit from a newly approved regulation that will give them access to affordable medical care in Shenzhen.

The Interim Measure of Shenzhen on Migrant Workers' Medical Insurance has been passed in a government standing meeting. It is China's first medical insurance regulation specially designed for migrant workers to solve the problem of rising medical costs for the low-income group.

It follows a successful pilot that mainly targeted manufacturing companies in four major areas of the booming southern city, which are inhabited by a large group of migrant workers.

The pilot project was launched in March last year and the new regulation means it has been extended to all companies with contracted migrant workers in the city.

According to the regulation, firms are required to pay 8 yuan (US$1) a month per worker to the special insurance fund, while workers themselves contribute 4 yuan (US$0.5) a month.

Half of the sum goes into an account for outpatient services, and 5 yuan (US$0.6) for hospitalization. The remaining 1 yuan will be used flexibly.

The fund will pay nearly 80 percent of the charges for outpatient services and 63 percent of hospitalization fees. It will pay up to 90 yuan (US$11.2) for a single outpatient service.

The government will subsidize the fund in emergencies, such as the outbreak of certain epidemics, severe natural disaster or policy adjustment, according to the new regulation.

Statistics from the city's labour and social welfare authority showed that the fund has worked well since the launch of the pilot.

Nearly 4,900 companies had joined the scheme by the end of last year and at least 1.2 million migrant workers were covered.

The fund recorded a revenue of 86.1 million yuan (US$10.7 million), and paid out 33.6 million yuan (US$4.2 million). About 48 percent of the account for outpatient services was used by the end of 2005, while only 5.23 percent of the fund for hospitalization had to be paid out.

The scheme has been welcomed by both workers and companies.

Wu Feng, a security guard at Fuqun Electronic, who is already covered by the scheme, said he spent only 5 yuan (40 US cents) when he went to see a doctor about a cold recently. "The scheme could save at least 100 yuan (US$12.5) for me each year," he said. He earns 800-1,000 yuan (US$100-125) a month.

Huang Baoquan, the welfare director of a button manufacturing company, said the firm had to previously pay 25.5 yuan (US$3.2) for an employee's medical insurance, but now only 8 yuan (US$1) was needed for the insurance fund.

(China Daily May 16, 2006)

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