BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- By the end of June 2012, 343,641 rural Chinese had been covered by a medical insurance program designed to provide financial aid to seriously ill patients, new data revealed on Monday have shown.
Among them are more than 4,000 children suffering leukemia and over 14,000 children suffering congenital heart disease. The reimbursement rate of the two diseases has risen to 74.1 percent and 77 percent respectively, according to figures released at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office to introduce developments in the country's health system.
The program started operating in June 2010, covering two diseases: childhood leukemia and congenital heart disease, expanded to covering eight diseases in 2011, and further rising to 20 this year.
Liu Qian, the vice health minister, said the inclusion of a further 12 diseases this year has already helped 93,181 patients, with total subsidies amounting to 388 million yuan (61.4 million U.S. dollars).
However, health minister Chen Zhu added that financial support is not the answer to everything, and strengthening the entire medical system, at grass-roots levels in particular, is also critical to keeping the severely ill away from bankruptcy.
He pointed out, for example, that of roughly 2,800 county-level hospitals, over 800 do not have a single nephrology specialist; as a result, rural patients on dialysis have to travel long distances to big cities.
The success of the program also relies on secured supply of medicines. For example, Chen said, although hemophilia was included on the scheme this year, the treatment of the disease needs plasma products of which stocks fall short of demand.