China has made significant progress over the past year in building up a social security system aiming to cover all its citizens. The Social Security Law, launched in the middle of 2011, provides a legal guarantee to ensure that the public will obtain substantial help from the government should they lose the capability to make a living.
What do you need to bring when you have to see a doctor? The answers from most local citizens would be “the social security card.”
Card holders only need to pay a small portion of the charges for medical treatment – the rest will be settled with the patients’ medical insurance once the information on the card is read.
Mr. Li said, “I show them the card, then I just need to pay a little. The rest is deducted from my medical insurance account. This is much more convenient than before.”
So far, more than 10 million Beijing citizens have got their social security cards. It can be used in all of the public medical facilities.
Ma Jingqi, director of Medical Insurance Office, Beijing Tongren Hospital, said, “One or two years ago, patients had to bring cash to the hospital, and bring back lots of receipts. If the receipts went missing, they wouldn’t get the money back from the insurance company. Now that trouble has gone. It’s also easy for us to settle the accounts.”
The progress made in the capital is a reflection of the current situation in the country’s construction of social security system. The mechanism was also legally consolidated after the country’s first Social Security Law took effect last July.
The law clarifies the government’s obligation to subsidize basic medical insurance for urban residents and a cooperative medical service for rural dwellers.
Xu Xiaoyi, vice minister of Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security, said, “More than 1.2 billion people are involved in the various medical insurance services. Most of them have used the service at least once. From these huge numbers we can see that medical insurance is the most urgent issue we have to deal with, regarding the social security.”
Tang Min, vice chairman of China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, said, “We are just a country with a GDP of 4000 dollars per capita. Many other developing countries in the world do not have similar social security system yet.”
China started to build up its social security system ten years ago. A decade on, lots of drawbacks still exist in the current system.
Ms. Wang said, “I am from Heilongjiang Province. I can’t use it here in Beijing’s hospital. I have to use cash.”
Tang Min, vice chairman of China Social Entrepreneur Foundation, said, “In the early stages of the development, the coverage is high, but the level is low.”
To improve the level of the social security system is one of the biggest challenges for the government in the New Year.
China has an ambitious plan to develop its social security system in its 12th five year development plan, which starts from the year 2011. Whatever happens in this area may not be that impressive as the launch of a spaceship, but whatever changes made to improve that system will profoundly influence every corner of the country, and every citizen.
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