CHINA WORKS TOWARD RURAL HEALTHCARE PROGRAM

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China is expected to establish a nationwide medical insurance system by 2020 for all its residents, 75 per cent of whom are still lacking in health coverage, experts have reported. Only 130 million of the country's 550 million urban residents, and hardly any rural residents, currently have health insurance.

In rural areas of central and western China, a cooperative medical system exists, in which medical funds are pooled from local governments and farmers. This system, asserts the country's government, can only provide limited support to farmers, should be replaced by a full-fledged medical insurance system. Devoting more money to disease prevention in rural areas and promoting public health improvement at the grass-roots level, say health officials, is crucial in establishing a solid healthcare program for the country's poorer regions.