China will launch a pilot project of medical insurance this year to cover 240 million unemployed urban residents, who were once excluded by the medicare net, said a senior official on Wednesday.
The program, to be carried out in 79 cities in the trial stage and planned to cover urban children, students and jobless adults, will eventually bring all urban residents under the umbrella of medical insurance by 2010, Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister of labor and social security, said at a press conference.
China established a medical insurance system for urban employees in 1998.
As a new cooperative medical care system has been implemented in rural areas since 2003, which has covered more than 700 million rural residents out of the total 800 million, the new urban program, if successful, means all Chinese residents can have an access to medical insurance, Hu said.
According to Hu, the premiums under the pilot urban program will be paid by households, instead of individuals. The government will give each participant a subsidy of at least 40 yuan (US$5.3) annually, and low-income families and disabled ones can get extra subsidies.
Hu said 50 to 60 percent of a policy-holder's expense in hospital will be covered by the program, and local governments, based on local economic level and central government guidelines, will decide how much participants pay to buy the insurance, Hu said.