China's rural H7N9 patients guaranteed access to care

BEIJING - The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission issued an online notice on Tuesday to help ensure access to medical treatment for rural people infected with H7N9.

More than 98 per cent of the mainland's rural population is covered by the New Rural Cooperative Medical Care System, which is government-subsidized.

"The document aims to ensure the economic and medical security of rural people who might be infected by the new bird flu variant under the existing insurance policy and to help ease the economic burden from medical treatment for H7N9 infections," said Deng Haihua, a spokesman for the commission.

Liang Wannian, director of the commission's H7N9 influenza prevention and control office, said no one will be denied treatment for H7N9 infection for financial reasons.

The notice said medications to treat the infection such as Oseltamivir and Zanamivir and medical procedures including breathing support and kidney replacement therapy have been temporarily added to the essential drug list and can be reimbursed under the system.

"That's important to ensure public health and social security as well," the notice said.

Other limitations, such as only allowing patients to get medical bills reimbursed at designated hospitals, have also been removed.

A supplementary medical insurance policy exclusively for major diseases will also be used to further relieve the medical burden for patients, it said.

Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory diseases expert in Guangdong province, said in cases of a public health crisis like the ongoing H7N9 outbreak the government should set up a special fund to assure patients receive free or largely subsidized treatment.

On April 7, the Guangdong provincial government launched a fund to help cover medical treatment for H7N9 patients with financial difficulties.

However, public medical insurance programs for employed and unemployed urbanites are operated by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

Some regional human resource and social security authorities have issued documents to cover medical treatment for H7N9 infections under the policies.

SERVICES