Children from overseas whose parents work in Shanghai will be able to join a government-run fund covering medical expenses when the new semester begins next month.
Chinese who send their kids to foreign schools will also be eligible for the fund for the first time.
The added coverage was unveiled yesterday by the Red Cross Society of China's Shanghai branch, which operates the fund. The Shanghai Health Bureau and Shanghai Education Commission are also involved in the non-profit effort.
The program's premium of 60 yuan (US$8.78) will cover a large share of medical expenses from September to next August for children at least one month old.
Parents of preschoolers can pay the fee at their community hospital. Parents of children enrolled at foreign educational institutions must pay at their school.
The fund pays half of a participant's hospitalization and out-patient costs for severe diseases such as leukemia and cancer, and also covers half of the costs of dialysis and anti-rejection medication following kidney transplants, up to an annual limit of 100,000 yuan.
Coverage for medicine will also be expanded in September, providing reimbursement for half of drug fees.
"Since it was established in 1996, the fund has been expanding its coverage gradually," said Yang Junyi, the program's director.
Yang said the added coverage next month is designed to give equal treatment to youngsters who haven't been covered in the past.
Children from overseas can be enrolled only by parents who hold Shanghai residency. Students at foreign schools must join the fund as a group. As such, school authorities must contact the fund to arrange participation.
Before the change, children with local residency, or hukou, children of Chinese out-of-town professionals who hold Shanghai residency, and non-Shanghai children studying at domestically run kindergartens, primary and middle schools and migrant children's schools have been covered by the fund.
The program started to cover expatriate students studying in Chinese-run kindergartens and schools in 2007, when more than 7,000 children took part. The number climbed to 11,177 last year.
From the time it was set up through May, the fund had paid out 845 million yuan in medical expenses for 952,000 children. It covers only standard medical treatment, not VIP clinics or beds at local hospitals.
(Shanghai Daily August 28, 2009)