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Funds on the way for emergencies

By Zheng Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-02 07:49

China will set up funds to subsidize emergency medical fees incurred by the poor and patients whose identities are unclear, the State Council said in a guideline issued on Friday.

The move came amid government efforts to help patients whose inability to pay medical bills has resulted in hospitals ignoring them or refusing to provide treatment.

The funds will be used to cover emergency medical treatments for acute illnesses or serious injuries among the poor and patients whose identities have not been confirmed, said Sun Zhigang, director of the health reform office of the State Council.

However, it is not yet clear who would qualify for such financial assistance. Sun said specific criteria to determine whether a patient qualifies need to be worked out by governments and medical institutions based on local conditions.

The Ministry of Health will lead efforts to determine which illnesses and injuries can be covered, as well as develop compensation standards, according to the guideline, which did not include a timeline.

Provincial and prefecture-level governments are required to set up such funds, which will be jointly financed by government revenue and public donations, the guideline said.

The funds, described by the State Council as an important guarantee for establishing an emergency assistance system in China, will be operated by provincial and prefecture-level government health departments.

The health departments will be supervised by a special committee of legislators, political advisers, medical experts, donors and media representatives.

To encourage donations from all walks of society, enterprises operating in China, private businesses and individuals can enjoy favorable income tax rates after making donations to the funds, according to the regulation.

"The fund will benefit more patients who could not get timely and effective treatment because they cannot afford the medical expenses," said Chen Wen, a professor at Fudan University's School of Public Health in Shanghai

The basic healthcare insurance system and new rural cooperative medical care system have covered some 95 percent of the population in the country, but emergency cases are not included.

So a very small number of patients in need of emergency treatment, mostly poor and the unidentified, are denied treatment, insiders explained.

The new initiative is a supplement that will provide social relief to those who fall into poverty because of sudden illness, said Chen.

Shan Juan and Xinhua contributed to this story.

Contact the writer at zhengxin@chinadaily.com.cn.

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