BEIJING -- Central and local government subsidies for China's rural cooperative medical insurance system will be increased from 40 yuan (US$5.50) to 80 yuan per person, Health Minister Chen Zhu said on Monday.
Rural residents will also be required to raise their contributions to the scheme, from 10 yuan to possibly 20 yuan a year.
The increase in funding is expected to ensure the cooperative healthcare system will cover the entire rural population by the end of 2008.
"The full coverage means more farmers will be able to reimburse part of their medical bills," Chen told a national health conference attended by Vice Premier Wu Yi and other senior officials.
Chen said 20 out of 31 provinces and regions were already entirely covered by the program.
As of September 30, 2007, about 730 million farmers, or 86 percent, in 2,448 counties, had joined the rural cooperative medical system, up 10.8 percentage points from 2004.
"As the financing increases, reimbursement plans should be adjusted to ensure that more medical fees can be refunded for farmers to boost the attractiveness of the program," Chen stressed.
The fund paid out about 22 billion yuan (US$3 billion) in reimbursements, with members of the scheme making 263.3 million medical visits during the first three quarters of last year, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Health on Sunday.