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The mechanism of healthcare insurance is improved for out-of-towners

2023-09-18 | By Li Lei


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Over 70 million people paying for medical treatment outside their home provinces benefit from the improvement of the healthcare insurance mechanism. Instead of paying the full amount upfront of their medical treatment costs, these out-of-towners to date only pay a portion of the expenses which are not covered by insurance. This change has been welcomed by the groups who often move across the country, including rural migrant workers and retirees who help to look after their grandchildren. National Healthcare Security Administration (NHSA) oversees the national basic medical insurance program, and at a news conference in 4th September, the deputy head of NHSA, Huang Huabo suggested that this group of people will not be troubled by paying up to 97 billion yuan ($13.3 billion), also they do not have to head back to their hometowns to file an insurance claim for reimbursement.

China's social safety net programs, including the healthcare plan, are typically managed by local authorities from county to provincial governments. This creates trouble for people who wish to seek medical services elsewhere. The problem drew the attention of the central authorities in 2014. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and several other agencies thereafter issued a guideline to begin the creation of a national unified medical cost refunding system. By August 2023, more than 475,100 hospitals and pharmacies had participated in the program to allow out-of-town patients to pay bills using their social security cards, which means that some costs would be exempted on the spot, Huang said.

According to a report released by the National Bureau of Statistics in April, China had more than 70 million migrant workers employed outside their home provinces in 2022. The figure is 690,000 less than that in 2021, due to an increase of job opportunities in inland regions where such workers are typically from. A separate report by the NBS showed that in 2020, 26.6 per cent of China's population was floating, i.e. without local permanent residency. Data from the National Health Commission showed there were some 18 million elderly individuals who accompanied their children to a new province in 2022, and many of them were moved to take care of grandchildren or for living support.

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Edited by Liang Xiuchun