Medical security for the elderly improves

Updated: 2012-11-08 13:47


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BEIJING - The past decade saw medical security for the elderly expand and the group's capacity to tackle health risks grow, an elderly affairs official said, as quoted by Health News on Thursday.

Li Zhihong, an official with the China National Working Commission on Aging (CNWCA), told Health News, a newspaper run by the Ministry of Health, that the CNWCA had organized three surveys on the living conditions of the country's elderly in the years 2000, 2006 and 2010, respectively.

The surveys show that 44.7 percent of the elderly living in rural areas were covered by health insurance in 2006, up from just 8.9 percent in 2000. The coverage rate further rose to 98.3 percent in 2010 due to the full coverage of "new rural cooperative health insurance," which was realized in 2008.

"After interviewing many seniors and their families, we found that the new rural cooperative health insurance scheme benefited the elderly group most," Li was quoted as saying.

Before the insurance scheme was instituted, most seniors in rural areas relied on their sons and daughters for medical financing. A lot of people have had to sell their stocks or homes in order to pay their elderly parents' medical bills, he told Health News.

After full coverage of the rural health insurance was realized in 2008, the proportion of rural elderly impoverished by medical spending dwindled, Li added.

Meanwhile, the health insurance coverage rate for elderly urbanites increased by 40 percentage points from 2000 to 2010.

China also launched a program in 2009 to provide an annual physical examination to each citizen over the age of 65.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health put forth in its five-year plan that a long-term nursing system for the elderly would be built to provide care to incapacitated seniors.

Li said all these measures represent the country's efforts to cope with the rapidly aging society.

According to official statistics, China had about 185 million people over the age of 60, or 13.7 percent of the population, by the end of last year.

By 2053, the number of senior citizens in China is expected to hit 487 million, or 35 percent of the population.