New amendments to the health insurance law will expand benefits, increase coverage among poor people and encourage more people to join plans, a senior official has said.

Le Van Kham, Deputy Director of the Department of Health Insurance, said on December 23 at a conference that the new changes will take effect at the beginning of next year.

Under the amendments, inpatients registered at province-level hospitals can get treated at central-level hospitals by paying 60 percent of their fees, instead of the current 70 percent.

Similarly, those registered at district level hospitals but wanting to get treatment at provincial facilities will have to pay 40 percent of their fees instead of the current 50 percent.

Inpatients getting treatment at district-level hospitals after being registered at commune-level hospitals will continue to pay 30 percent of the fees.

Poor patients and those belonging to ethnic minority groups in disadvantaged districts will have 100 percent of their fees covered, instead of the current 80-95 percent.

From January 1, 2016, health insurance card holders will be allowed to visit any hospital in communes and districts for examination and treatment. Those from poor households and minority groups can visit any hospital in the country.

Under the amended law, the State budget will pay 100 percent of the treatment expenses for those who've had health insurance for five consecutive years and whose hospital fees exceed six months of their basic salaries.-VNA