Commercial insurers are expected to play a more important role in providing medical insurance to a rapidly aging population in China, a top health official said on Friday.
The government will encourage the development of various types of commercial insurance to increase people's ability to deal with risks posed by major diseases, Ma Xiaowei, deputy minister of national health and family planning, said at a news conference .
"The number of old people in China is increasing fast, and this is putting much pressure on its medical insurance system," Ma said. "A new survey shows the proportion of people age 65 or above who go to a hospital for treatment is more than double that of young people."
The number of people age 60 or above reached 202 million in China in 2013, accounting for about 15 percent of its total population, the government said. In the past two decades, the Chinese government has established a vast medical insurance network, covering 1.3 billion people, Ma said.
The government's basic insurance system covers employees and the unemployed in cities, as well as farmers. People pay part of their salaries toward medical insurance, while their employers and the government pays the rest. People pay different rates and have different rates of reimbursement for their medical costs.
"Although the network does not provide high-level medical insurance to all the groups covered, it has extensive coverage. It is a most prominent achievement of China's development in the medical and health sector," Ma said.
Expenditure of the social security fund, which is managed by the government and includes the medical insurance fund, has been increasing quickly in recent years, Hu Xiaoyi, deputy minister of human resources and social security, said earlier this week, adding that balances of medical insurance funds in some places can barely meet expenditures.
Sun Ting, an analyst from Shenyin & Guanguo Securities, said commercial health insurance represents a very small portion of the whole market and is mainly targeted at high-income groups to provide them with customized services.
"The development of commercial health insurance needs support from policies," she said.
In a document released by the State Council last year, the government at various levels is encouraged to provide more favorable policies to encourage the development of commercial health insurance to meet the diversified needs for health insurance from different groups of people.
A dramatic increase is expected by 2020 in the number of people covered by commercial health insurers and the number of commercial health products, the document said.