The number of healthcare insurance holders in the country has thus far reached 64.6 million, accounting for 71.4 percent of the total population, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said at a teleconference on July 1.

She said the latest estimation marks an increase of 2.7 million people over the same period last year.

The teleconference, chaired by Deputy Prime Minster Vu Duc Dam, aimed to review results after six months of implementing the amended Health Insurance Law.

The ministry has set a target of health insurance coverage for 75 percent of total population by the end of this year.

The ministry has issued several instructions on implementing the Health Insurance Law and carried out various measures to improve healthcare services and minimise administrative procedures for health insurance holders, the conference heard.

The application of IT in healthcare service management and insurance payment has been carried out on a trial basis in some localities.

By the end of 2014, 34 of 63 provinces were providing financial assistance for "near poor" households to purchase health insurance, the ministry said.

Nguyen Thi Minh, General Director of Vietnam Social Insurance, said that the agency has this year signed contracts with more than 2,000 healthcare institutions to provide services to insurance holders nationwide.

In the first half this year, the agency provided healthcare payments of 20 trillion VND (917 million USD) for 60 million insurance holders, he said.

However, Minister Tien also said that many difficulties stood in the way of having health insurance coverage expanded to 75 percent of the population. Less than 60 percent of the residents in the provinces of Nam Dinh, Tien Giang, Ca Mau, Dong Thap, Bac Lieu and An Giang have health insurance, she said.

The health ministry has found that several provinces and cities have not included the health insurance target in their socio-economic development programmes.

Administrative procedures for purchasing health insurance were still troublesome and people still lacked information on the health insurance options available, she added.

Many enterprises were delaying and dodging their responsibility for purchasing health insurance for their employees. The health ministry estimates that about 49 percent of employees nationwide do not have health insurance coverage, but no effective solutions have been found to solve this problem.

Deputy PM Dam praised the ministry's achievements in expanding health insurance coverage, and asked it to cooperate further with Vietnam Social Insurance as well as local administrations to reach the targets of 75 percent and 80 percent of the total population having health insurance by the end of this year and 2020, respectively.

In the second half of this year, the Health Ministry and Vietnam Social Insurance will implement several measures to increase the percentage of health insurance participants and provide more assistance to poor households in rural areas, the conference heard.-VNA