China mulls making retirees pay health insurance

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Beijing, Jan 4 (IANS) China is considering introduction of medical insurance fees for retirees, a media report said on Monday.

In an article for Seeking the Truth, the official Communist Party’s magazine, Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said the government should look at the option as a way to tackle rising pressure on the national health system.

Unlike most countries, retirees in China are not required to pay health insurance, the China Daily reported.

By the end of 2014, about 283 million Chinese were included in the so-called employee medical insurance programme, according to the ministry of human resources and social security.

The national insurance system currently has a surplus of 673.2 billion yuan ($103 billion), a figure that has continued to rise in recent years, from 495 billion yuan in 2012 and 579 billion in 2013.

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Yet experts warn that China’s rapidly ageing society means a deficit will occur if expenditure keeps rising at the current pace.

“In the West, the biggest threat to national health insurance systems is an aging population. But in China, besides that factor, pressure also comes from the fact reimbursement levels need to be increased-and that means retirees need to contribute,” said Lin Shuanglin, director of the China Centre for Public Finance at Peking University.

However, asking pensioners to pay insurance fees will likely face public opposition.

The finance minister’s comments have already been sharply criticised online.

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