China's central government has appropriated 19.8 billion yuan (2.9 billion U.S. dollars) in subsidies to encourage farmers to participate in rural health care programs, said the Ministry of Finance Wednesday.
The fund is the first batch of money from the central budget that will be used to finance the country's ambitious 850-billion-yuan health care reform plan, according to the ministry.
About 331.8 billion yuan would come from the central budget, according to the reform plan. However, the ministry did not say how the remaining 312 billion yuan would be used.
The country's rural population is getting health care coverage under a system called the New Rural Cooperative Medical Care system, introduced in 2003.
In the action plan for the reforms unveiled last week, the government said it would raise the health insurance subsidy offered to farmers who participated in the system from 80 yuan per person to 120 yuan per person as of next year.
China wants to have more than 90 percent of its population, urban and rural, covered by some sort of basic medical insurance by 2011, according to the reform plan.
(Xinhua News Agency April 15, 2009)