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Medical Subsidies Pledged to Rural Areas
Rural residents in less-developed western regions of China are set to receive more financial aid for health care services.

The central government yesterday pledged new sources of medical subsidies, starting from 2003.

Vice-Premier Li Lanqing, speaking at a national conference on public health in the countryside yesterday, said rural residents can access a 10 yuan (US$1.21) per capita annual subsidy from the State fiscal budget if they sign up to the rural co-operative health care mechanism.

The financing mechanism is emerging in rural areas under the auspices of local governments with a view to offering financial relief to destitute families.

Bills for medical operations and hospitalization charges are often exorbitantly high for people on low incomes.

Li said residents could receive no less than 10 yuan per person per year of financial relief from government in the local fiscal budget.

"We will also improve services using providers such as mobile medical teams to make sure people living in remote areas can secure access," said Li.

Western regions of China have the highest incidence of many of the most infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. A similar situation exists for endemic problems such as iodine deficiency and Kaschin-Beck disease.

About 80 per cent of China's medical resources are accessible to just 30 per cent of the population -- all living in urban areas.

Li said there was an underlying need to collect funding from various channels - namely from the State budget, donations and charities - to help more destitute families afford rising medical bills.

Beijing promised earlier this month to invest 800 million yuan (US$93.4 million), taken from national treasury bonds, to initiate a program in 12 western provinces and regions to improve local health care services.

(China Daily October 31, 2002)

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