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China to advance poverty alleviation in health care

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Medical workers provide free health examination and consultation to impoverished villagers in Shiqian County, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. Xinhua

BEIJING (Xinhua) – China will advance poverty alleviation in health care and ensure all medical institutions at county, township and village levels in impoverished areas reach set standards by 2020, according to the National Health Commission.

Hu Qiangqiang, a spokesperson for the commission, said that high-level hospitals in China will help their county-level counterparts in poor regions with talent building, and each township-level institution will have one general practitioner by 2020.

Telemedicine services will cover all township-level hospitals in poor regions. Screening of breast and cervical cancers for rural women and screening for newborns in poor areas will make further progress, Mr Hu said.

Incentives will also be raised for medical professionals working at grassroots-level hospitals. Individuals who are impoverished by major or chronic diseases could be further compensated, Mr Hu said.

Of the 55.7 million people living in poverty in rural China as of 2015, about 44 percent were impoverished because of expenses related to health. The current poverty line in China is 2,800 yuan (US$425) per person a year.

To help impoverished regions gain access to more health resources, the government has also announced steps tol increase subsidies for insurance for the rural poor and encourage the private sector and nongovernmental organisations to invest in poor regions.

Despite China’s universal coverage for basic health insurance, a person with low income can easily go bankrupt because of out-of-pocket expenses.

For example, a person may be reimbursed for 80 percent of a medical procedure, but the remaining 20 percent can gobble up a year’s earnings or more.

Nearly 30 million Chinese are in poverty because of this sort of basic math, according to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation.

The foundation has partnered with an IT company to launch an online crowdfunding website to give poor patients direct access to donations for lifesaving medical care, the foundation.

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