China took a major move Tuesday to make medical insurance accessible for all.
According to a document issued by the State Council, the central government proposed the merger of two medical insurance programs for urban and rural residents.
Currently, there are three separate medical insurance plans -- basic medical insurance for urban employees, basic medical insurance for city dwellers which covers mainly the under 18 and the unemployed, and the new rural cooperative medical scheme.
The two urban plans are managed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, while the rural plan is administrated by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The merger of the latter two schemes may be the first step to a united medical insurance system.
According to the State Council, a new post-merger insurance plan will cover both urban and rural residents who are not covered by the urban employees' medical insurance, and could cover around 75 percent of inpatient medical fees. Reimbursement for outpatient charges will be raised gradually.
Meanwhile, all subscribers to the new insurance plan will be subject to a unified standard of payment. This means rural residents may have to pay more than they used to do.
The goal of the merger is to "push forward medical reforms, ensure rural and urban residents' equal access to basic medical insurance, promote social justice, and boost people's well-being," the State Council said in the document.
Local governments have been asked to submit their respective insurance merger plans by the end of this year.