Earlier this month, the Yunnan provincial government began implementing a new "universal insurance program". The purpose of the effort is to extend basic paid coverage to the most remote areas in the province while establishing a comprehensive database of ailments facing those who register.
This policy push encourages most rural villagers to enroll by the end of 2016, although purchasing supplemental plans is not required. Also, by creating a centralized database, the government hopes to conduct analysis in order to better allocate healthcare resources in the future. The current information database has been characterized as "difficult and challenging" by some officials, and having a better-organized system may help both hospitals and patients in handling future treatment.
While all people in Yunnan have basic government-provided medical insurance issued when they turn 18, coverage is rarely more than bare-minimum and does little to reduce costs for serious treatments and surgeries. Thus, the new program is designed to augment the existing insurance structure, supplementing opportunities for rural residents to buy liability medical insurance, encouraging them to spend money now to save money on possible healthcare costs in the future.
While well-intentioned, the Yunnan government appears aware of the fact many of the province's poorest cannot afford to buy even the most basic health insurance. Correcting organizational problems in the healthcare industry have been deemed a top priority by provincial planners.
In Zhaotong Prefecture, the Wumengshan Area Regional Development and Poverty Alleviation Conference concluded yesterday. Participants announced a five-year plan to channel close to 863 million yuan (US$138 million) toward poverty-targeting investment in the prefecture, partly in hopes to increase rural incomes so people can afford to purchase health insurance policies of their own.
On a related note, a new system of participation in the basic medical billing system offered in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and the municipality of Chongqing officially started last week. It operates via the use of a swipable card at any networked hospital in these three regions. Migrant workers with even basic insurance are now able to access treatment at hospitals once unavailable to them, benefiting from higher quality facilities and better treatment.
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