BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- A total of 805 million people -- 98 percent of the rural population -- were covered by the rural medical insurance system by the end of 2012, Minister of Health Chen Zhu announced Thursday.
Under the new rural cooperative medical program, health funding for each countryside resident reached 300 yuan (48 U.S. dollars) last year, Chen said at a health work conference held in Beijing.
According to ministry statistics, 1.5 billion people received medical fee reimbursement through the program in 2012.
Hospital expenses added up to 24 percent of the annual per capita income of rural residents in 2012, while the figure was 28 percent in 2011, the ministry said.
More than 80 percent of rural areas have promoted payment method reforms. Also, measures have been taken to guarantee treatment for critical illnesses, with 990,000 patients receiving reimbursement for the treatment of serious diseases, the ministry said.
Chen said supervision over rural medical funds was strengthened in 2012, with criminal sanctions given to 22 people who committed crimes involving the medical insurance system.
According to Chen, the program is aiming to raise per capita health funding to 340 yuan in 2013.
The medical insurance system should also be enhanced to fully guarantee treatment for 20 serious diseases, such as child leukemia, Chen said.
Commercial insurance institutions are being encouraged to collaborate with the new rural cooperative medical program, with 15 yuan paid by each person to purchase insurance for critical illnesses, Chen added.
"Many problems exist in the medical insurance system, including poor services provided by local medical institutions and a lack of subsidies for rural doctors in some areas," Chen said.
Chen urged improving training for local health workers, making greater efforts to support village doctors and strengthening medical institution examinations.