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Free insurance for orphans with critical illnesses
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China's orphans are to receive free medical insurance for 12 critical illnesses thanks to joint efforts between government and charity organizations.

The insurance, at a premium of 50 yuan (about 7.3 U.S. dollars) a year, is designed for all healthy orphans aged under 18 across China who have registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA). Each insured orphan will be covered for 100,000 yuan.

"The insurance will be in place for orphans before the National Day (October 1) this year," Song Liying, secretary general of the China Children and Teenagers' Fund (CCTF) , said Tuesday. The insurance program will be jointly operated by the MCA and the CCTF.

The 12 illnesses covered are malignant tumors (including leukemia), organ and stem cell transplants, acute kidney failure, aplastic anemia, benign brain tumors, acute hepatitis, sequelae of cerebritis or meningitis, infantile paralysis, serious juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, serious kawasaki disease, Myasthenia Gravis and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

A survey conducted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2005 shows China has about 573,000 orphans under 18 years.

Dou Yupei, vice minister of the MCA, said the real number of orphans in China was probably much higher since traditionally Chinese who help take care of orphans of their relatives are reluctant to let other people know the children are orphans.

Dou said the ministry has been carrying out a new survey on the number of orphans in China and the condition of their health.

"The new survey could be completed this year," he said.

The insurance for orphans is a new program of the China Children Insurance Foundation, a charity fund launched by the CCTF in April.

Hu Haidi, CCIF's managing director, said the foundation will distribute the insurance through civil affair departments.

The public and businesses may make donations to the foundation online, through mobile text messages, as well as banks and post offices. The foundation is also entering a partnership with Give2Asia to help enable overseas supporters to make donations.

"Through insurance, a small donation by an individual can make a big difference," Hu said.

An individual whose donation exceeds 20,000 yuan, or a company whose donation exceeds 200,000 yuan, may designate the money for specific recipients, says Hu.

There are about 360 million children in China. Less than half are covered by commercial medical insurance or a social welfare system, says the CCTF.

Vice Minister Dou said the Chinese government and charity organizations have set up programs to help save children already suffering from various diseases, such as cleft palate.

"The insurance program, which aims to help protect children from critical diseases, is a good supplement and could benefit thousands of children," he said.

Before the insurance program for orphans, CCIF had already donated insurance to 120,000 Chinese children aged between 3 to 15 protecting against four critical illnesses: leukemia, renal failure, severe burns and blindness. Each beneficiary is covered for 100,000 yuan.

(Xinhua News Agency September 15, 2009)

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